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6-Regulation: U.S. warns EU not to keep GMO moratorium



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TITLE:  Warning on GMO Rules Delay
SOURCE: Financial Times, UK, by Guy de Jonquires
DATE:   Nov 12, 2002

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Warning on GMO Rules Delay 

US diplomatic patience risks being severely strained if European Union
ministers fail this month to endorse legislation crucial to re-starting approvals
of genetically modified foods, the EU's health and consumer protection
commissioner said yesterday.

David Byrne said in an interview that if Washington responded by carrying
out its threats to bring a complaint in the World Trade Organisation, "the
[legal] defences that would be available to the EU . . . would be very narrow". 
Asked whether he expected that the EU would lose such a case, he said: "That
is something you would want to take very seriously into account."

However, he warned the US that even if it won a challenge in the WTO, it
would risk triggering a consumer backlash that would undermine Brussels' efforts
to build the popular confidence needed to open the EU market to GM foods.

The European Commission will again urge councils of EU environment and
agriculture ministers when they meet this month to approve rules governing the
traceability and labelling of GM food and the permissible level of non-approved
GM ingredients in food and feed.  The Commission had hoped the EU's four-year
de facto moratorium on authorising GM products would be lifted last month,
but the deadline was missed after ministers failed to agree the legislation.

Washington has said it may bring WTO cases both over the moratorium and over
the traceability and labelling regulation.  The US objects that the
Commission's proposal for a 1 per cent threshold on the "adventitious presence" of
GMOs in food is unreasonably low. But Mr Byrne said US food industry executives
had told him that they could, reluctantly, live with the requirement.

However, the commissioner said that lowering the threshold to 0.5 per cent,
as some members of the European parliament and some EU members want, would be
unacceptable to US producers and could torpedo efforts to create new rules
for GM approvals.

He believed Washington understood that EU resistance to GM foods was not
based on protectionism but on questions of[consumer choice and said intensive
contacts with US officials had established "good relations" on the issue. 
However, he added: "If the two councils fail to achieve common positions in the
next couple of weeks, I think there is a significant risk in those
circumstances that the confidence of the US would erode.
 


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