Washington, D.C., August 14, 2001 – More than 200 consumer, farm and environmental groups worldwide sent a letter today protesting threats by the Bush administration to challenge food safety laws of other countries as barriers to international trade. Groups representing citizens in Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States and Zimbabwe signed the letter. The groupsóincluding the Third World Network, Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International, and the Consumer Policy Institute/Consumer’s Union (U.S. publishers of Consumer Reports)órepresent millions of members around the world.

The groups called the U.S. threats unreasonable, especially since the U.S. allows states to establish food safety and environmental laws that are tougher than national laws. For example, a five-year moratorium on engineered fish was passed in the state of Maryland last April. Additionally, U.S. pesticide law allows states to set limits on pesticide use that are more strict than federal law.

ìIf a U.S. state can have a moratorium on genetically modified foods, why can’t other countries do the same? said Ricardo Navarro, Chair of Friends of the Earth International and a resident of El Salvador. The U.S. has no right to tell Sri Lanka or any other country how to write their food safety laws.

Weyland Beeghly, Agricultural Counselor from the U.S. Embassy, New Delhi publicly threatened in May that the U.S. might challenge a ban in Sri Lanka of genetically engineered organisms by submitting a complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The ban is scheduled to take effect on September 1, sixty days later than planned as Sri Lanka granted a WTO request to allow exporters time to adjust to the law.

Wichai Chokwiwat, Secretary General to the Thai Food and Drug Administration told the Thai newspaper, The Nation, on July 19th that his country was a target of threats to use U.S. trade laws to retaliate against a Thai proposal made in July to require labeling of genetically engineered corn and soy crops.

The letter to the Bush administration argues that Sri Lanka and other nations have a scientific, regulatory and moral basis to set limits on the proliferation of genetically engineered organisms. For more information follow these links:

letter signed by 200 consumer, farm and environmental groups worldwide
en español

list of signatories of letter
en español

sri lanka law banning genetically modified foods


Mark Helm, Friends of the Earth, 01 202-783-7400 x102, 01 202-270-2650 cell