Stubborn opposition by labor, public interest, and environmental groups over the past several years stopped Clinton, and now Bush, from gaining "expedited" "Fast Track" negotiation powers. Fast Track legislation, if approved by Congress, would enable the White House to circumvent public opposition and expand legally binding trade treaties such as the WTO (a treaty which up until now has not been yet been fully applied to agriculture). Fast Track would also help Bush implement new corporate-instigated trade regimes such as the so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Under Fast Track procedures, Congress can only vote yes or no on new treaties proposed by the White House, giving up for five years the power to modify or change trade rules, even when these regulations supercede or nullify local, state, or national laws in force in the US or other nations. WTO-imposed rules can nullify laws: protecting sea dolphins or turtles; import laws providing support for sustainable small farms in the developing world; laws banning hormone-tainted beef; laws regulating GMOs; or laws banning city or state purchases from sweatshops or making investments in companies doing business with dictatorships such as Burma.

Polls conducted several years ago by Ralph Nader's organization, Public Citizen, revealed that 2/3 of Americans oppose global trade agreements such as the WTO once they understand that these trade agreements essentially establish new global economic laws which benefit large corporations while reducing the sovereign power of ordinary citizens and their elected representatives.

With Bush's Commander in Chief persona and popularity, at least temporarily, at an all time high, the White House has decided that now is the time to push through a GMO-friendly version of Fast Track and to increase the pressure on the EU and other nations to lift their restrictions on GE foods and crops. All this, while most of the public and the media are preoccupied, and while those that oppose unregulated globalization, Frankenfoods, and expanded rights for transnational corporations can be branded as "unpatriotic."

As Robert Zoellick, US Trade Representative, stated in a Sept. 24 speech: "This President and this Administration will fight for open markets and free trade. We will not be intimidated by those who have taken to the streets to blame trade--and America--for the world's ills." At the same time Bush's USDA has begun to make its first moves to degrade organic standards, appoint advocates of industrial agriculture to the National Organic Standards Board, and prepare the groundwork for a gradual takeover of the organic industry by corporate agribusiness. (More on this in the next issue of BioDemocracy News.)

On Oct. 3, the Chairman of the powerful House and Ways Committee introduced a Fast Track bill in the Congress. This bill not only gives Bush expanded powers to negotiate trade agreements, but is also designed to "eliminate practices that unfairly decrease US market access opportunities, including unjustified trade restrictions such as labeling, that affect new technologies, including biotechnology."

The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 8 that EU authorities, in a significant concession to White House pressure, had agreed to push for an end to the GE food and crop moratorium that has been in place in Europe for the past three years.

Lifting the GE foods moratorium has drawn near-unanimous condemnation from the European public. As Adrian Bebb of the UK Friends of the Earth put it, "The EU is trying to rush ahead, under pressure from the US and the GM industry, disregarding concerns about public health and the environment. The gentlemen's agreements that it is proposing with industry are likely to be worthless, and, in any case, the public will resist having these products forced upon them." (London Independent 10/7/01).

At an international meeting in Washington Oct. 23, EU officials deflated the Bush administration's hopes, pointing out that public pressure makes it extremely unlikely that the EU GMO moratorium will be lifted before 2003-at the earliest, and perhaps not at all, if the US continues to stubbornly embrace its no-labeling/no crop segregation policy. Tony Van Der Haegen, EU minister for agriculture, stated "Labeling is an issue for political judgment and is necessary to ensure transparency so as to restore consumer confidence and allow for consumer choice. Unless we restore EU consumer confidence in this new technology, genetic modification is dead in Europe." (InterPress 10/24/01)

Bush's push for Fast Track appears to have similarly fizzled, with analysts in Washington predicting that the Fast Track debate will continue in January.