During a recent visit to New Zealand, Charles Hanrahan, of the US government’s non-partisan Congressional Research Service, praised the country’s response to the contentious issue of GM foods and told the New Zealand Herald that: “The need for more public information on this broad issue is something the US could benefit from.”

In an attempt to discover how best to deal with GMOs and GM products, the country’s Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has organised a series of public meetings and hearings, and will take written submissions from the general public.

Both countries have announced places (pledges?) to introduce a compulsory labelling of GM foods, but the US government was initially reluctant to enforce such measures and US food producers are far behind New Zealand in terms of non-genetically modified food output. Furthermore, GM issues are set to take a back seat for the time being, to be addressed only after the presidential election in November.

Hanrahan explained the US attitude in terms of the difficulty in reconciling commercial, agricultural and consumer interests: “US farmers would like to see international uncertainty about biotech reduced, but at the same time they’re continuing to plant biotech crops, as the demand for GE-free corn, soy beans and cotton crops is still tiny.”