EU official says US government puts corporations over consumers
One of the European visitors on the recent biotechnology tour of the US says the American government supports the interests of large companies over consumers by not labeling GM foods and calls pro-biotechnology public relations tactics “brainwashing.”
“Telling people the truth”
Dr. Danka Valkova, associate professor of biotechnology, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia says the greatest difference between the US and EU with regard to GM foods is consumer choice and education. “It’s about giving people the chance to choose by labeling GM products, and telling people the truth about the possible risks,” says Dr. Valkova, who established a program to test GM foods in Slovakia. “It is normal in Europe to give people the chance to choose.”
Dr. Valkova dismissed a claim by pro-biotechnology supporters that GM food labeling is misleading, calling such a claim an “oxymoron.” “This I don’t understand. I think that the US government only protects the rights of big producers and not consumers,” she says.
Dr. Valkova says she appreciated that the tour offered a broad range of views. “The US government invited us, not only to show us the point of view of government, but also farmers, scientists, lawyers, pro- and anti-GMO groups,” she says.
In fact, Dr. Valkova also said she was more influenced by her meeting with anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith, director, Institute for Responsible Technology, than she was by pro-biotech supporter Dr. C.K. Prakash, director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at the University of Alabama, Tuskegee.
The worst part of her trip was visiting Foley and Lardner LLP, a national pro-biotechnology legal firm based in Washington, DC. “It was supposed to be a brainstorming discussion but it really turned into simple brainwashing. They showed us the methods used to control public opinion and influence the minds of simple people, methods that I had suffered from during 20 years under communism. I just didn't like it at all,” says Dr. Valkova
Organic farm was highlight
Despite receiving a heavy dose of pro-biotechnology views, meeting with prominent GM food supporters, and visiting biotechnology companies, Dr. Valkova says her favorite part of the trip was visiting Ross Farm, a producer of organic grass-fed beef in Texas. “It was nice to see how people are learning something our grandparents knew very well—to grow grass without chemistry!" she says.
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