G8 nations remain split over GM foods

UK damps otherwise solid European front against north American leaders at Okinawa summit

Leaders of the G8 grouping of industrial economies remained deeply split over the safety of genetically modified (GM) during their latest summit meeting in Okinawa, Japan, which ended yesterday. French president Jacques Chirac led the EU charge in favour of strict application of the precautionary principle, while US president Bill Clinton maintained that all the available scientific evidence showed GM foods were safe. UK prime minister Tony Blair has attracted domestic criticism by backing Mr Clinton rather than Mr Chirac.

The Okinawa summit was intended to enable a compromise on GM foods, the leaders having asked for several reports on the issue at their 1999 meeting (ENDS Daily 21 June 1999). Instead, the summit communiqué merely repeats the 1999 statement's commitment to science and rule-based policies. A UK proposal for creation of an intergovernmental panel on GM safety issues was simply "noted" by the participants.

On other environmental policy issues, the leaders stressed that they were "strongly committed" to finalising the UN Kyoto climate protocol, and in particular to ensuring a successful outcome for this November's meeting of parties to the 1992 climate change convention.

They also stressed the important role of renewable energy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and called for a global debate on how to increase its use in developing countries. On export credit guarantees, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to developing "common environmental guidelines" by next year's summit, as agreed earlier this year (ENDS Daily 29 February). The International Maritime Organisation was given backing for its efforts to strengthen ship safety standards.

Follow Up:
G8 Okinawa summit, and communiqué.

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