Proposed European Biotech Rules Upset U.S. Government, Farmers

By Agence France-Presse The U.S. government and farmers reacted with dismay July 2 to a European Union parliamentary vote to require labels on foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The European parliament agreed to two new directives that will require foods and animal feed to be labeled if they contain at least 0.9% of GM ingredients. The European Union said the decision opens the way to lifting a de facto moratorium on biotechnology food imports, which is being challenged by the United States in the World Trade Organization. But the U.S. administration and U.S. farmers said the new labeling rules, which could be adopted into law by individual European Union member states later this year, would make matters worse. The United States believes the new labeling proposal is infeasible, and unfair to its farmers, said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick's spokesman Richard Mills. "Today's action does not lift the EU's illegal moratorium on biotech products," Mills said. "The EU's five year moratorium on new biotech approvals is not based on scientific analysis. It blocks consumer choices. It jeopardizes the benefits biotechnology offers to the environment and defeating the world's hunger." The European action conflicted with the analysis of six national academies of science that had found biotechnology foods safe, Mills said. "The EU's practice may lead other countries to block trade by imposing detailed information, traceability and labeling requirements and prompt a host of new non-tariff barriers just when we are trying to stimulate global trade," he warned. The United States is leading a group of 12 countries, including Argentina, seeking to overturn the EU obstacles to foods with genetically modified ingredients. As a first step, the dozen countries requested a 60-day consultation period at the WTO. If no resolution is found, they may seek the formation of a WTO dispute settlement panel to hear arguments. The 60-day period expires July 13. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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