A northwest Iowa farmer challenged a top Bush Administration official to accept European complaints about biotech crops as a means of boosting prospects for mid-sized U.S. farmers who grow traditional or organic crops. Linus Solberg of Cylinder directly challenged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick yesterday at a forum in West Des Moines.Solberg had relatives from Ireland, France, Great Britain, Canada, Norway, Australia, and Japan visit his northwest Iowa farm last year, and he says all his relatives “love America and our people, but they hate our government.” Solberg says his non-American relatives see the U.S. government officials as the “bullies of the world” forcing other countries to accept meat with hormones and genetically-modified grain.Solberg says if Europeans are willing to pay a premium for soybeans that do not have the RoundUp-Ready gene, then that’s an opportunity for medium-sized farmers in the U.S. to give Europeans what they want, and what they are willing to pay for. Solberg wondered aloud why the U.S. government didn’t adhere to the credo that “the consumer is always right.” Ambassador Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative, responded. Zoellick says the U.S. favors “consumer choice” and European governments aren’t allowing that now, he says.Zoellick says the U.S. suggested Europeans adopt the same organic food standards as are in place in the U.S. so U.S. organics could be sold overseas, but they balked. Zoellick says what if the U.S. started to object to the standards for things like French wine. He says if we start “playing that game” a lot of markets will be shut down around the world. And Zoellick says the U.S. can’t let Europeans win on the biotech issue because other countries have begun using it as an excuse to keep U.S. commodities out of their countries. Zoellick says, for example, China has begun to talk about barring U.S. soybean imports because the beans are genetically-modified, and Zoellick says since China’s a country that’s embraced biotech crops, it’s just an attempt at protectionism on their part.
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