Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Hold the Hormones

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Hold the Hormones

Article excerpt

What do the French know about food anyway?

PITY LE PAUVRE GRAND MAC. WHENEVER THE UNITED States and some fretful foreigners get into a spat, you can bet that somewhere a McDonald's restaurant is going to suffer some sort of indignity. As the imagined corporate flagship of America s global white fleet, McDonald s seems to be blamed for everything the rest of the world elects to dislike about America.

Recently several McDonald's restaurants in France were assailed under door-bursting avalanches of rotting fruit. French farmers were demonstrating their distaste for a series of tariff hikes on food exports to the United States. Those hikes came in response to Europe's refusal to accept U.S. hormone-enriched beef on its shores, but the dispute reflects a broader and, for American food producers, multibillion-dollar problem: European nations' resistance to U.S. food products.

At the heart of the conflict are two visions of food production. Many Europeans favor a "small is beautiful" approach based on local production and traditional agricultural methods. Les americains prefer to supersize it, following an industrial model of agriculture that requires large-scale, centralized production and distribution.

The European model offers greater variety, the American, greater bounty. The Achilles' heel of the American system, however, is its deep reliance on high-tech production methods. America is the homeworld of genetically modified and chemically and hormonally soaked food products. Europeans argue that the possible environmental and health consequences of biotech food, while not yet satisfactorily demonstrated, remain potentially devastating to European humans and European ecology. They've refused visas to a variety of U.S. food products, from soy beans to sides of beef.

And it is not just the ever persnickety Prince Charles and his European ilk who have been turning up their noses at American food imports. A federal judge in Brazil has banned sales of Monsanto Corporation's Roundup Ready soybean seeds--gene-altered to resist fungus and weeds and to tolerate Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. And, in a blow to U.S. marketing experts who have managed to prevent similar outbreaks of informed consumerism on these shores, Japan plans to require labels on all genetically modified food products.

There are, of course, other forces behind the resistance to U.S. designer food. …

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