Food imports produced through biotechnology should be less of a problem for European Union countries as the rest of the world adopts them, EU official Dan Rotenberg said at a seminar on U.S./EU trade relations during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 90th annual meeting in San Antonio.
The EU must accept biotech food and feed or it won’t be able to feed its livestock, Rotenberg said, and would then need to import meat from animals fed biotech crops in the United States or elsewhere. Rotenberg is the European Commission counselor to the United States.
European attitudes about biotechnology have been shaped by one-sided, anti-biotech arguments from the environmental group Greenpeace, he said. That group has been forceful in advancing its agenda, Rotenberg said, likening it to the influence the Humane Society of the United States exerts on animal welfare issues in the United States.
European consumers continue to resist foods which may contain pesticide residues, Clare Thorp, ag attaché for the Embassy of Ireland, said.
“Ironically, EU resistance to pesticides may make biotech products more acceptable because pesticides can’t be used,” Thorp suggested.
Biotech crops, for example, provide resistance to pests that would otherwise need to be controlled by pesticide products.
Europeans also continue to reject hormone-treated beef from the United States and elsewhere, Rotenberg said, but EU imports of hormone-free beef have increased significantly. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy emphasizes the “precautionary principle” — using an abundance of caution when clear proof is not available — and permits use of a minority scientific opinion in import decisions.
Since the late 1990s, EU exports to the United States have been increasing while its imports from the United States have remained flat. The EU’s CAP emphasizes quality over quantity, he said, and only 7 percent of the EU’s exports are price-dependent bulk commodities. The 27 EU countries are net importers of raw products and net exporters of higher-value consumer products, particularly spirits, wine, waters and beer.