Monday, June 21, 1999 Published at 13:55 GMT 14:55 UK
Global GM crop investigation begins
The G8 leaders shared food but not ideas on food safety
The world's seven richest nations and Russia have commissioned a special investigation on the global implications of genetically-modified (GM) foods and crops.
The compromise finally reached by the G8 was to pass the issue over to scientific experts at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. They have until next year's summit in Japan to "undertake a study of the implications of biotechnology and other aspects of food safety".
The discussion of GM crops and food safety was added to a section of the summit's business called "Tackling Global Challenges". This placed it alongside nuclear safety, the millennium bug and the fight against the global epidemic of Aids.
Opponents of GM crops, including Friends of the Earth, said the new investigation was significant but added that US and UK caution about the original proposals showed how far their position is from those of other leading nations.
The investigation was also welcomed by Monsanto, a leading biotechnology company, who said it would speed up international approval of their products.
Problems of proof
The disagreement about a global food watchdog between the US and most of the European Union (EU) countries is unsurprising given their ongoing trade dispute. This has focused on hormone-treated beef and GM food.
The EU argues it will not import the US foods without clear scientific proof they are safe, while the US says it should be allowed to trade because there is no scientific proof they are harmful.