A Brouhaha Over Biotech Corn

Europe could ban altered U.S. seeds--and spark a trade war

Dieter Vanstaen picks up an ordinary-looking ear of yellow corn. With his thumb, the Brussels-based marketing manager for Ciba-Geigy Ltd. flicks off a kernel. "We were surprised that this small thing has become such a big problem," he says. The "small thing" is a genetically altered corn seed developed in the U.S. by Ciba to resist molds that can devastate as much as 20% of Europe's maize crop. American farmers already are harvesting the product. But despite more than two years of wrangling, the European Union, citing environmental and health concerns, still has not approved Ciba's seed for sale to the Continent's farmers.

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