Rules of the Game; April 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 2 Page(s)
In Montreal this past January more than 130 countries agreed on a protocol for commerce in genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The agreement forestalled an all-out trade war between U.S.-allied food-exporting nations on one side and the European Union, together with some developing nations, on the other, but skirmishes are likely to continue. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, named after the Colombian city where negotiations began, leaves unresolved key questions about when a country can ban the import of GMOs that it suspects could adversely affect health or the environment. The biotechnology industry is steeling itself for the more intrusive controls and tests of its products that are likely to be the price for expanded markets.
Although no harm from a GMO crop has ever been demonstrated, consumer anxieties are running at fever pitch in European countries, where environmental groups and newspapers denounce agricultural products of genetic engineering as "Frankenfoods." Activists charge that altered crops could wreak ecological havoc and cause new allergies.