modified crops are a major problem in EU-U.S. trade talks
By the CAFTA Report wire services
The European Union has some of the strictest regulations in the world
for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, requiring extensive
testing, labeling and monitoring of all food products whose DNA has
been manipulated in labs. The debate has intensified this year with the
EU and United States negotiating a free-trade agreement that, many
hope, will eventually allow American GMOs into the European Union.
Frederick Schmidt owns 170 hectares of farmland in Finten, a small
agricultural community outside Frankfurt, Germany.
His farm is well known in the area not only for the delicious apples,
peaches and pears but also for vegetables like asparagus. Most of
Schmidt's customers are locals, people from neighboring villages and
supermarkets in the Frankfurt area. He credits the quality of his fruit
and vegetables to respecting and working with nature.
“On my farm we pay a lot of attention to sustainability, that means I
have to keep this land," he explained, "what’s in it and its
biodiversity for the next generations so they can be successful
farmers, as well. The quality of the land is most important, what we
have here has to be dealt with wisely and preserved for the future.”
Ever since GMO crops started expanding in the 1980s and 90s, German
farmers remained opposed to genetically engineered fruit and vegetables
for fear of health risks and environmental contamination.
Despite repeated efforts by the U.S. and Canada to export GMO crops to
the EU, they have been met with strong opposition. And, the issue
resurfaced this summer as the United States and the European Union
started negotiations in Washington on a free trade agreement and
possible GMO food imports like corn, soy and sugar beets from the
“For the Europe side, this is a pretty sensitive issue because there
are so many people in our countries who have an adverse opinion about
genetically engineered crops and that of course is a political factor
in this debate, no doubt about it,” explained Thomas Schmidt, a food
and agriculture expert at the German Embassy in Washington, DC.
a European Union study, 75 percent of Germans are opposed to consuming
or expanding genetically modified crops.
A type of maize engineered by chemical giant Monsanto was banned in
2009 and Amflora, a GMO potato developed by the company BASF was grown
by one German farmer in 2010 and 2011 then abandoned.
Opposition has been so strong that last year chemical giant BASF moved
its bio tech division from Germany to the United States.
For German resident Kristine Koster, 28, not eating genetically
modified foods is a matter of principle.
“I would gladly pay a few more euros for food that is as natural as
possible, organic, without pesticides, without GMOs," she admitted.
"This is very important to me. I don’t want to eat any genetically
Critics inside the European Union, including Spain where GMO crops are
currently grown, say that Europe has to embrace genetic engineering or
lag behind economically. They also point out that while banning GMO
crops in Europe, the EU depends on imports of genetically engineered
corn from the US, soybean from South America and animal feed from
When asked if he expects a breakthrough in the ongoing EU-U.S. free
trade negotiations, Schmidt said a compromise will be difficult.
“I am cautiously optimistic. We should always keep in mind that trade
and agriculture is only 4 percent of the overall trade of the United
States with the European Union," he noted. "We should not let 4 percent
of trade take over 96 percent of trade. We should be aware that we have
differences and we should find ways to live with these differences by
harming trade as little as possible.”
The European Union is currently the largest importer of goods from the
United States and a possible deal between the two on GMO food imports
from the U.S. would have a significant economic impact on both sides of
the Atlantic. The free trade agreement negotiations are expected to be
finalized by the end of 2014.
— Oct. 25, 2013
convention center gets approval for loans
Special to The CAFTA Report
The tourism institute has taken another step toward getting a $12
million loan to build a national convention center.
The site is in Barreal de Heredia along the General Cañas
The La Gaceta offical newspaper on the Web contained an authorization
by the Banco Central de Costa Rica. The Instituto Costarricense de
Turismo sought the central bank's blessing last year and now plans to
negotiate loans with Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica, it said.
The central bank became involved because a loan of that magnitude might
affect the balance of payments.
The proposed facility would hold 4,500 persons and contain associated
rooms, restaurants, kitchens and
The proposal has been in the works for years, and at one time the
country expected the government of Taiwan to come up with the money for
But when then-president Óscar Arias Sánchez broke with
Taiwan in favor of the People's Republic of China, the project was left
a financial orphan.
The center comes at a time when the number of convention goers in the
United States has dropped significantly. At the same time, the number
of convention centers have mushroomed.
Cities and states see convention centers as a way to tap income from
visitors with a lot of disposable income who require
no long-term public services.
The tourism institute repeated Oct. 23 its hope that the convention
center would stimulate more tourism traffic for the country.