U.S., EU Facing WTO Fight Over GM Foods

September 15, 2003

2 Min Read
U.S., EU Facing WTO Fight Over GM Foods


U.S., EU Facing WTO Fight Over GM Foods

BRUSSELSThe ongoing disagreement between the United States and the European Union (EU) over marketing genetically modified (GM) crops and foods was revved up in mid-August. On Aug. 18, the United States, Canada and Argentina requested the World Trade Organization (WTO) establish a dispute settlement panel to review the EU approval guidelines for GM crops, which the countries claim amount to a moratorium on such products in violation of free trade. The move followed consultation meetings among the countries in June, with the aim of opening dialogue on the topic.

Delegations from the United States, Canada and Argentina consulted in June with EU officials, but the EU indicated no willingness to comply with its WTO obligations by lifting the groundless moratorium on biotech products, said Robert Zoellick, U.S. trade representative.

The WTO request came only weeks after the European Commission (EC) (http://europa.eu.int) published guidelines for the development of strategies and best practices to ensure the co-existence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming. The guidelines set out general principals and the technical and procedural aspects to be taken into account when member states develop measures for coexistence of these crops.

Included in the guidelines is a list of measures that European countries could adopt as part of a co-existence strategy. Among the suggestions are: on-farm measures (i.e., isolation distances, buffer zones); cooperation between farms (i.e., sharing data on sowing plants, crop varieties); monitoring and notification schemes; farmer training; exchange of information; and advisory services.

Only a month ago we updated our regulatory system on GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in line with the latest scientific and international developments, said David Byrne, EU commissioner for health and consumer protection. Clear labeling and traceability rules are essential to help restore consumer confidence in GMOs in Europe.

WTO dispute panel procedures last a year on average, though the timetable in this case may be longer given the necessity of hearing several scientific experts on the topic.

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