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White House, United Nations and Japan issue new rules for GMOs

On May 3, the Clinton Administration announced that producers of transgenic crops or other genetically modified foods must notify the Food and Drug Administration four months before bringing their products to market. This will give the FDA time to review industry research on the safety of the product, announce its findings, and prevent the sale of unsafe products. For now, products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) need not be labeled or independently tested, requirements that the White House feared would erode consumer confidence in biotechnology. On May 24, representatives of 62 countries signed the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a U.N. agreement requiring exporters to use labels stating that products "may contain GMOs" and to notify potential importers if shipments contain GMOs. The agreement also addresses liability concerns, should a GMO cause unintended problems for importing countries. The U.S. did not sign the agreement, but intends to abide by its rules. In Japan, only GMOs approved as safe by the Japanese Health Ministry may be imported, as of April 2001. U.S. growers currently supply 80 percent of Japan's soybeans and 90 percent of its corn-the two most commonly grown transgenic crops.

Environmental News Service, May 3, 2000; Reuters, May 24, 2000 and April 26, 2000.

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