American Soybean Association (ASA) President Mark Berg testified before the House International Relations Committee last week to present soybean producers’ views on trade issues with the European Union (EU) concerning agricultural products derived from biotechnology. Berg, a Tripp, South Dakota soybean grower, pointed to the rapid acceptance of biotech crops by U.S. farmers as an important factor for addressing EU delays in approving imports of these new varieties.”After many years of seeing the technology advance, and now with the commercialization developing rapidly, American farmers are very eager to take advantage of the benefits plant biotechnology offers,” said Berg.Berg reported that 30 percent of U.S. soybean acreage, 25 percent of corn acreage and 40 percent of cotton acreage—a total of 44 million acres—would be planted with genetically modified varieties in 1998. “This rapid expansion is possible not only because of the developments in technology, but also the regulatory system in the United States which efficiently evaluates the safety of genetically modified crops using science-based risk assessments.”The United States has approved the marketing of three soybean varieties and fifteen corn varieties since 1996. In contrast, the EU has approved the marketing of only one soybean variety and one corn variety. EU delays in approvals are beginning to disrupt marketing of U.S. commodities to European Markets, prompting Berg to make five recommendations.”First we need the EU to adopt a much more transparent and efficient process for approving new biotech varieties,” said Berg who cited frustration with the EU changing its approval process in midstream.The second action Berg suggested is for biotech and seed companies to seek clearances for new varieties in major U.S. export markets on a timely basis, and preferably before they are commercialized in the United States. To prevent trade sanctions against all U.S. soybeans, ASA has requested that each company currently in the soybean biotech arena not launch biotech varieties into commercial markets until the varieties are approved overseas as well as in the United States. ASA has received assurances for 1998 that companies will postpone their commercial launches of unapproved varieties.Berg’s third request was for the EU and other countries to accept that there is no scientific basis for requiring segregation or labeling of biotech varieties that have been determined to be substantially equivalent to conventional varieties in terms of safety, nutrition and composition.Fourth, the Clinton Administration needs to engage the EU in an effort to reach agreement to recognize each other’s procedures for approving and commercializing biotech crops and products.Berg’s final recommendation was that rules governing biotech should be included in the next World Trade Organization negotiations. “The language in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement in the Uruguay Round Agreement must be clarified to apply to biotech crops and products, and to supersede the rules of any other international treaty or agreement,” Berg said.
For a newspaper that’s small and underweight even by British standards, the Guardian has a knack for making some big noises, both in its home market and across the pond.The venerable paper (founded in 1821) was one of five news organizations to publish stories based on WikiLeaks’s trove of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables in late 2010. The only U.S. newspaper to publish the leaks, the New York Times, did so thanks to the generosity of the Guardian, which shared the documents.Next, the Guardian’s revelations about the extent of illegal phone tapping by journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World in 2011 helped bring down the massively popular British tabloid and led to a wave of criminal prosecutions in Britain.In late May, the Guardian was at it once more. The newspaper raced The Washington Post to break details of a massive National Security Agency surveillance program. It subsequently posted the first and only video interview with Edward Snowden, the young American security contractor who was the source of The Post’s and Guardian’s stories.Not a bad run of scoops for a financially struggling, frankly liberal newspaper with a newsprint circulation of fewer than 160,000 copies daily (which makes it roughly the size of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) but with a significantly larger digital following worldwide.The NSA stories, in particular, raised the Guardian’s profile to an Everest-like peak. Its video interview with Snowden, conducted by its star U.S. columnist Glenn Greenwald, attracted nearly 7 million unique views worldwide in one day. The total was a record for the paper’s website, which is already one of the world’s most heavily trafficked news sites with a high of 41 million unique monthly visitors.The NSA and WikiLeaks revelations also raise a question: Why is a London-based news organization revealing so many secrets about the United States government?“We’re just doing what journalists do,” replies Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s longtime editor and architect of its global digital strategy. “We were contacted, just as The Washington Post was contacted, [by a source] with some very interesting documents. No journalist in the world wouldn’t have been interested in this.”The Guardian, he points out, is equally dogged about domestic spying; it published revelations last month that the British equivalent of the NSA monitored the computers and phone calls of foreign officials during two G-20 summit meetings in London in 2009 — a story that embarrassed the British government on the eve of hosting another international summit.Since 2008, the Guardian has been making a major push to appeal to the U.S. market. After a bout of layoffs, it now employs 29 journalists in the United States, primarily in New York and Washington. Online visitors from the States are channeled to the Guardian’s U.S. edition, which features America-centric news. Monday’s page, for example, carried articles about the deaths of firefighters in Arizona and a retrospective of photos from the Battle of Gettysburg.Along the way, the paper has hired a succession of U.S. pundits such as Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff, NPR host Bob Garfield and former Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox.Its biggest hire, arguably, has been Greenwald, the crusading columnist who broke (along with The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman) the NSA surveillance stories.Greenwald joined the Guardian as a regular columnist and blogger last August. He said the decisive factor in his decision to leave Salon.com for the Guardian wasn’t money, but rather the newspaper’s approach to the powerful.“For at least a couple of years before I went there, I found myself citing Guardian articles quite frequently in the work I was doing,” Greenwald said in an exchange of emails from Rio de Janeiro, where he resides with his Brazilian husband. “They were extensively covering vital stories that most U.S. media outlets were either ignoring or downplaying in areas of U.S. foreign policy, civil liberties, secrecy, whistleblowing and the like.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds up a copy of Britain’s Guardian newspaper as he addresses media on the grounds of Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, eastern England, on Dec. 17, 2010. Carl Court/AFP In Greenwald’s view, U.S. media outlets “tend to be far more reverent of and accommodating to political power than British media outlets, including the Guardian.”Then again, the Guardian has its own sacred cows. Unlike its U.S. media cousins, which have traditionally sought neutrality in their news reporting, the Guardian hews to the British model of identifying with a political party. The paper has been liberal since its founding by Manchester mill owners and cotton merchants; in the last British elections it supported the minority Liberal Democrats.It has played politics here, too. In 2004, it enlisted its readers to write to undecided voters in Ohio, advising them to vote against President George W. Bush. The campaign elicited a thunderous rebuke from U.S. and British readers alike and was scrapped.Rusbridger explains that some of the Guardian’s willingness to experiment, and much of its independence, is a result of its unusual ownership structure. The newspaper has been owned for decades by a charitable foundation, the Scott Trust Limited, whose “core purpose” is to secure the paper’s editorial independence “in perpetuity.” The trust also owns a sister newspaper, the Observer. (On Sunday, the Observer posted and then quickly withdrew a story that alleged the United States had worked with European Union countries to collect personal communications data; the piece was based solely on information from Wayne Madsen, a U.S. conspiracy theorist who has suggested that President Barack Obama is gay.)For all its nominal success abroad, the Guardian is troubled at home. Circulation of its domestic print edition has tumbled by more than half since the beginning of 2006; according to British media accounts, the paper lost about $1 million a week from 2009 to 2012. It continues to lose money, according to Rusbridger. “We’ve been through lean times like everyone else,” he says. “Last year wasn’t great.”But he notes that the paper is subsidized by other ventures owned by the trust, including Auto Trader, a highly profitable British car-sales site.Rusbridger isn’t blind to the irony. The next round of globe-rattling government-secrecy revelations, he says, may be brought to you by “a secondhand car magazine.”© 2013, The Washington Post Facebook Comments No related posts.