Douglas G. Watson, president and CEO of Novartis Corp., provided an insight during a recent visit to Atlanta into what can make life difficult for a global company.

      During a speech at a dinner of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce held at the Swiss™tel Jan. 13, he referred to the challenges Novartis faced when it introduced genetically modified corn into U.S. and European markets, namely differences in local market requirements.

      Novartis specializes in healthcare, agribusiness and nutrition and is the wholly-owned subsidiary of Novartis AG, a publicly-owned company headquartered in Basel, Switzerland.  CIBA Vision, a worldwide leader in vision care products headquartered in Atlanta, is also a division of Novartis.

      European countries require labeling of  all genetically modified organisms yet have no central European authority to verify the accuracy of the labeling.  In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determine whether the organisms may be sold here.

      Novartis was faced with two philosophical approaches and it really brings out how different markets are, he said. Europe is very much driven by the emotion of the general public which drives the politicians to make decisions.  They (the consumers) say ‘We want the products labeled so we can make the choices.

      On the other hand, he said that in the U.S. the FDA and the EPA decide what products are acceptable and labeling is not as important.

      The most important thing is that we’re in the business of producing safe products, he said.  The challenge is to meet these local standards.  We will meet as a company whatever are our standards and the local standards….

      For more information, call Sheldon Jones at (908) 277-5293; fax, (908) 277-2237.