Food Fight

Europe's parliament has passed stringent new rules for genetically modified food, raising American objections. Noëlle Lenoir , the new French Minister for Europe, dissects the issues involved.

The adage that "you are what you eat" holds two meanings. It admonishes us to maintain a healthy, nutritious diet. It also reminds us that food forms an integral part of our cultural, religious, or regional identities, because what we eat and how we produce our foods are deeply rooted in our histories and traditions. Indeed, the peculiarities of national cuisine provide some of our most descriptive nicknames for one another. To the English, we French will forever be "frogs" because we eat frogs's legs, as the Germans will always be "krauts" because of their love of sauerkraut.

The evolution of European attitudes toward genetically modified foods and plants reflects just such a dual concern with health and identity. Since April 1990, when the EU Parliament, with no significant opposition, adopted the first two directives on the use and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), public opinion has grown increasingly suspicious and hostile. What incited such fierce sensitivity about GM foods?