Vilsack: negotiations should be based on science

Science should rule the day when it comes to negotiating trade with the European Union, says Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  Vilsack, who is in Europe this week to meet with his counterparts, says Europeans need to be engaged in talking about tariffs, non-tariff barriers and sanitary and phytosanitary issues.  He and his counterparts had an extended conversation about geographic indicators, biotechnology, cloning, regulatory simplification and pathogen reduction treatments.

“We have a common goal, which is expanding markets, and we have a common language when it comes to dealing with these difficult issues,” said Secretary Vilsack, “and that common language is the language of science and a commitment to science and to letting science dictate and direct how we solve these problems.”

Vilsack says adhering to science-based trade negotiations will allow consumers to have choices and will allow farmers on both sides to have options and choices.

The secretary’s EU visit coincides with recommendations from European Union environmental ministers last week to allow individual nations in the EU the right to grow biotech crops, according to the USDA.

During a conference call conducted by Secretary Vilsack from Brussels, Belgium on Monday, he said that he didn’t specifically address the potential policy change with his counterparts.

“We talked in a little bit more general terms of the importance from our perspective of understanding that it’s diversity and the need for coexistence among various production processes, and that there was, and is, no safety concern,” Vilsack said.

The U.S. has not taken a specific stand on the EU’s biotech opt-out provision, however Secretary Vilsack added this:

“At the end of the day, it’s always going to be about what science tells us and what science directs in terms of making sure that it doesn’t convey a sense of anything having to do with unsafety or any problems associated with biotechnology,” said Vilsack, “because there are hundreds of scientific studies that suggest otherwise.”

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