The U.S. and EU want to strike a trade deal. The two economies make up 45% of the world's GDP. The results could change the world. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIPS), as it is known, is expected to nibble at protectionist restrictions on trade.
But significant changes are at risk. Europe's devotion to unscientific GMO regulations pose a regrettable obstacle.
The problem Europeans have is this: the United States's health and safety regulations are more lenient. Europeans are, perhaps understandably, wary of U.S. requests to strip significant regulations. Some worry this could ultimately compromise the safety and health of European consumers.
But unsubstantiated information drives the regulation of genetically modified foods.
According to Reason Magazine, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that said "No adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population." International Council for Science, the World Health Organization, and the European Commission all released similar reports.
There are a countless instances where GMO opponents have distorted the facts. One French study found that feeding rats genetically-modified corn induced cancer. The scientific community rejected the study, pointing at manipulated data, the secretiveness of the study, and the lead author's crooked reputation (and well, several other factors).
Most evidence says that GMOs are perfectly safe. The "GMO Scare" relies on misinformation and questionable science. But their safety remains a feverishly controversial topic. The half-truths are circulated widely and people continue to hold an irrational fear of GMOs.
Europe currently restricts the import of genetically altered foods from the U.S., like "hormone-treated beef, pork produced from hormone-fed pigs, and genetically-modified corn and soybeans." Internally, it requires GMO labeling. François Hollande, president of France, says he refuses to budge on the issue. (But then again, France has a large agricultural sector it seeks to protect.)
Other European policymakers firmly oppose lifting barriers.
Some argue that the EU is more concerned about public health and safety. Corporate Europe, a publication dedicated to "exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU" has launched a campaign called Stop the Crop. In addition to questioning the safety of GM foods, Corporate Europe Observatory argues that this is a "unique opportunity for big business."
The Christian Science Monitor ascribes these dissimilar approaches to GMOs to cultural differences. Europeans think Americans are too anti-regulation and that americans support big business interests above the safety of citizens.
The talks are expected to take a while. Policymakers hope to strike a deal by fall of next year. Hopefully GMO-related concerns will not continue to beleaguer the process. Substantial, necessary changes are are at risk of melting away, or producing lackluster results, because of overblown, irresponsible disagreements.
Trade is awesome. Topple the barriers and let us reap the benefits.