On March 22, 2012, The European Institute held a seminar to mark the release of the European Commission's new Animal Welfare Strategy.  The seminar brought together experts from the European Commission, U.S. government, business, non-profit organizations and academia who compared and contrasted animal welfare policies in the EU and the U.S., and explored the growing role that the private sector is playing in resolving animal welfare issues.  Speakers included: The Honorable Jim Moran (D-VA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, U.S. House of Representatives; François Rivasseau, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union; Carlos Alvarez Antolinez, Minister Counselor, Food Safety, Health & Consumer Affairs, Delegation of the European Union; Philip Brasher, Editor, Executive Briefing, Agriculture and Food, CQ Roll Call; Chuck Eggert, CEO, Pacific Natural Foods; David Fikes, Food Marketing Institute; Andrea Gavinelli, Head of Unit, Animal Welfare, DG Health and Consumers, European Commission; Dena Jones, Farm Animal Program Manager, Animal Welfare Institute; Linda Keeling, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; Judit Krommer, Legislative Officer for Animal Welfare, DG Health and Consumers, European Commission; Cathy Liss, President, Animal Welfare Institute; Janice Neitzel, Sustainable Solutions Group; Dr. Kenneth Petersen, Assistant Administrator, Office of Field Operations, Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Annechien ten Have Mellema, President, LTO - Dutch National Pig Farmers Organization; and Professor Adroaldo Zanella of the Scottish Agricultural College.

Recent outbreaks in food-borne illness in both Europe and the U.S. – such as the E.coli episode this summer in Germany (that affected some transatlantic travellers) and the U.S. scare and recall involving salmonella-infected ground turkey meat – have underscored the need for better protection and inspection of foodstuffs and other agricultural products.

But efforts to tackle the issue are encountering problems on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, funding problems have beset Congressional-mandated reforms in the U.S.

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The Obama administration is moving to expand and accelerate U.S. production of genetically engineered crops – a trend that is eventually liable to ratchet up transatlantic pressures over EU resistance to importing “GMO’s” for consumption by Europeans.

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A number of recent articles in the European and American press have highlighted the grave concern in Europe about reports of imports and sales, without licensing or labeling, of meat and milk derived from clones. Whereas approval and labeling is necessary for the sale of the meat of clones, the European Commission has taken a very lax view on milk and meat from the offspring of clones. Several European countries are already importing clone semen and embryos. Switzerland has acknowledged that clone-derived products are sold there (that can be exported to the EU) and the British have discovered in their newspapers that they may be unknowingly eating clone-derived meat and milk. There is currently no system for tracing the origin of these products, informing consumers of the nature of what they are buying or indeed tracking clone offspring as they mix into the gene pool.

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While the EU and the new U.S. Administration are trying to harmonize their views, trade in food and regulations regarding biotechnology remain among the most delicate areas in transatlantic trade negotiations, in part because of the different backgrounds on which public opinions are based. Dan Rotenberg, Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the Delegation of the European Commission addressed  the status of the Doha Trade Talks in this sector. His colleague at the Delegation, Dr. Wolf-Martin Maier, Counselor for Food Safety, Health and Consumer Affairs addressed questions regarding food safety and consumer protection regulations.

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