U.S. government bullied Vietnam into keeping GM foods unlabeled

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(NaturalNews) The Obama Administration has been accused of pressuring Vietnam into rejecting the labeling of genetically modified foods, despite the passage in June of a law by Hanoi that would require it, for the benefit of U.S.-based agri- and biotech giants.

According to Thanh Nien News, the Vietnamese law required food makers to label all products containing more than 5 percent of ingredients from GMO substances, "including additives and flavorings."

But the law had not been enforced, the report said, noting that "relevant agencies" have stated that they could not do so because they lacked detailed guidelines.

The dearth of GMO labeling has led to concern among environmental activists worried about potential health risks that would be imposed on an unwitting Vietnamese population, but, said the news site, the U.S. government does not appear to be bothered by that, considering that Washington "has been providing diplomatic cover for biotech giants to push the GMO agenda worldwide."

Lobbying via American embassies

A WikiLeaks-released diplomatic cable revealed that the Vietnamese legislature, the National Assembly, began to require mandatory GMO labeling in 2009, but at the time U.S. diplomats at the American embassy in Hanoi, the nation's capital, voiced strong concerns over the law. U.S. embassy officials also relayed their concerns to the State Department in Washington.

Thanh Nien News further reported:

Activists say the US officials fear that such labeling laws will raise public awareness of the widespread prevalence of genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in food, fueling in turn a public debate about the health, environmental and economic consequences of GMOs in the food and farming systems. They say the US official fear that this would ultimately lead to public rejection of GE seeds and a reduced market for GE products, limiting the reach of the aggressive US corporations both biotech companies and food processors.

Activists and activist organizations opposed to GMO foods have criticized the U.S. government for putting the interests of the GMO seed makers before the interests of Vietnamese consumers.

In a report released in August by Food & Water Watch, an anti-GMO organization based in Washington, the criticism is corroborated.

"The report confirms what we have already known for years," Jeffrey Smith, author of the bestseller Seeds of Deception, and founder of the Iowa-based NGO Institute for Responsible Technology, told Vietweek, according to Thanh Nien News.

"The US government has aligned with the biotech industry and has been bullying countries around the world into taking genetically engineered foods, even though these products have never fulfilled the long list of promises made," Smith added.

Food & Water Watch officials said the report, titled "Biotech Ambassadors: How the US State Department Promotes the Seed Industry's Global Agenda," is "the first comprehensive analysis of the strategy, tactics and US foreign policy objectives to foist pro-agricultural biotechnology policies worldwide."

U.S. government providing cover for biotech firms in the Third World

The group has examined over 900 cables from the more than 250 million WikiLeaks cables gathered from 113 countries between 2005 and 2009 which discussed agricultural biotechnology and GM crops. Researchers with the group documented what Thanh Nien News reported as "widespread US diplomatic efforts" to back interests of large biotech firms like Monsanto all over the world, but more in the developing world.

The group's report said that backing came "often over the opposition of the public and governments, to the near exclusion of other more sustainable, more appropriate agricultural policy alternatives."

A few of the world's biggest GMO agri-giants are attempting to establish footholds in the Third World, otherwise known as the Global South in foreign policy parlance, so they can then force skeptical governments to accept their biotech products and thus set the stage for the growing of GM crops in those countries, the report said.

In the meantime, American embassies around the globe have lobbied host governments like the government of Vietnam to adopt pro-GMO laws and policies, while orchestrating a "rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology" while challenging "commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules" and even "opposing laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered... foods."


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