U.S. Leads Challenge To EU Ban On Biotech Foods

By Agence France-Presse The United States and 12 other countries will challenge a European Union ban on genetically modified foods to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the U.S. government announced May 13. "The EU's moratorium violates WTO rules. People around the world have been eating biotech food for years," U.S .Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said. "We have waited patiently for five years for the EU to follow the WTO rules and the recommendations of the European Commission, so as to respect safety findings based on careful science." "The EU's persistent resistance to abiding by its WTO obligations has perpetuated a trade barrier unwarranted by the EC's own scientific analysis, which impedes the global use of a technology that could be of great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world." Zoellick said. A group of EU countries including France has placed a moratorium on approving genetically modified food imports, effectively halting the trade until EU-wide laws are in place on labeling such foods. EU ministers have approved new legislative measures, which must now by be approved by the European Parliament. Debate on the labeling law is expected in July. But the United States contends the Europeans have moved the goalposts repeatedly. Argentina, Canada, and Egypt joined in filing the WTO case. Others supporting as third parties are Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay. As a first step, the countries request and conduct consultations in the next 60 days. If no resolution is found they may seek the formation of a dispute settlement panel to hear arguments. Dispute settlement procedures, including any appeal, typically take 18 months. In Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy defended the position of the European Union. "The EU's regulatory system for [genetically modified organisms] authorization is in line with WTO rules: It is clear, transparent and non-discriminatory," he said. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2003

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