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6-Regulation: GE Industry and U.S. government increase pressure on European Commission

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  US looks poised to turn words into action on GM crops
SOURCE: The Financial Times, UK, by Edward Alden and Guy de Jonquieres
DATE:   Jan 14, 2003

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US looks poised to turn words into action on GM crops

The US has talked for so long about a legal challenge to the European 
Union's resistance to genetically modified crops that the threat has begun 
to sound like a tape recording. Now Washington may be poised to put words 
into action.

Last week, Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, raised the stakes 
by calling for the launch soon of a World Trade Organisation case against 
the EU. Pascal Lamy, the EU trade commissioner, immediately promised a 
vigorous defence.

If the US challenge goes ahead, it will be a huge gamble. It would be the 
biggest and most highly charged in a long line of transatlantic trade 
disputes that the WTO has been called on to adjudicate since the mid-1990s.

Although a final ruling could take up to two years, litigation would strain 
US-EU ties and imperil efforts to inject much-needed momentum into the Doha 
trade round. Tensions could spill over into other areas of transatlantic 

Furthermore, a US victory could prove pyrrhic. It would risk turning EU 
opinion even more strongly against genetically modified organisms - and the 
WTO - and kill off faltering European Commission attempts to restart the 
approvals process.

The US might then seek WTO approval to retaliate against European exports. 
That could further enrage the EU and lead it to activate $4bn (£2.49bn) of 
sanctions against the US, authorised in a separate dispute over an American 
corporate tax law.

Washington is keenly aware of the dangers. Indeed, the issue is so 
sensitive that George W. Bush's cabinet may take the final decision, 
probably later this month. However, Mr Zoellick's outspoken comments 
suggest he is confident a WTO case will be launched.

Mr Zoellick has made clear that his patience snapped late last year, when 
Zambia and Zimbabwe spurned offers of emergency US food aid that could 
contain GM corn, saying that accepting it could jeopardise their 
agricultural exports to the EU. He accused the EU of "immoral" behaviour, 
claiming some member states had linked their aid to African rejection of GM 

"The reason the logjam has finally broken is that this is no longer about 
Europe but about Africa, India and the rest of the world," said a US 

US trade officials see parallels with their successful WTO challenge in the 
1990s to the EU's ban on hormone-treated beef. Although the ban has not 
been lifted, they say the WTO ruling discouraged other countries from 
imposing similar curbs.

A US challenge on GM products would pose an even bigger test than the 
hormones case for the WTO's still sketchy jurisprudence on food safety. It 
would target the EU's de facto moratorium on new GM crop approvals imposed 
in 1998, and possibly a proposed directive requiring the traceability and 
labelling of GM products put on sale. However, legal experts are divided 
over the prospects for US success. The moratorium could be difficult to 
attack, because it is semi-official and not based on firm legislation, and 
the planned directive is not yet law.

"The US does not have a cast-iron case. It has a toehold case," says John 
Jackson of Washington's Georgetown University, a leading authority on world 
trade law. "I don't think current WTO rules can handle a case on GM 
products. There has to be a negotiation."

Nonetheless, he and other lawyers believe that even if the WTO did not 
uphold all its arguments, Washington might win enough to get the moratorium 

Some in Brussels also doubt whether a case would go their way. David Byrne, 
the health and consumer protection commissioner, has acknowledged the EU's 
defence would be based on "very narrow grounds".

The Commission still hopes it can fend off US threats by showing that the 
EU is moving to open its market. Last month, in a symbolic gesture, it used 
its powers under existing legislation to approve two oils derived from GM 

Brussels insists the best way to get the moratorium lifted is through small 
steps, designed gradually to win over EU ministers and reassure public 
opinion, environmentalists and other campaigners hostile to GM foods.

However, the strategy will only work if EU governments co-operate. Even 
optimists in Brussels are unsure that they will. "This is an area where 
there are no guarantees," says one official. "Every prediction we have made 
so far has been confounded." Additional reporting by Edward Alden in 

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  EuropaBio meets with Commissioners to discuss GM defacto moratorium
SOURCE: Cordis RTD News / European Communities
DATE:   Jan 14, 2003

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EuropaBio meets with Commissioners to discuss GM defacto moratorium

Members of EuropaBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, met on 13 
January 2003 with EU Commissioners for Environment, Agriculture and Health, 
Margot Wallström, Franz Fischler and David Byrne respectively, to discuss 
the ongoing de facto moratorium on genetically modified (GM) products and 

The de facto moratorium on GM products in Europe has been imposed since 
1999 as a precautionary measure towards marketing GM products.

During the meeting, Europabio members reiterated its concerns about 
continuing to impose such tight constraints on GM goods, calling for the 
need to strike a balance between the interests of the environment and, 
consumers, industry and authorities.

The Commissioners indicated that new legislative initiatives for labelling 
and traceability of GM products, as well as regulation measures on GM foods 
for human and animal consumption would, they hope, pave the way for the 
lifting of the de facto moratorium and allow Member States to authorise 
marketing for GM products again.

However, according to the Commissioners, in order to introduce such 
regulatory measures, Member States who have opposed GM products need to 
review their position. The Commissioners also called on enterprises to make 
more efforts in informing the public about GM products as well as revising 
previous GMO marketing requests with a view to disseminating them to 
national governments.

It is hoped that the outcome of the paper will help in developing a common 
position among the Member States on GM labelling and traceability. The 
European Parliament's second reading of these papers is expected in late 
summer 2003.

For more information about EuropaBio, please visit the following web 

Category: Miscellaneous
Data Source Provider: European Commission
Document Reference: Based on information from the European Commission
Subject Index : Biotechnology; Legislation, Regulations; Food

RCN: 19540


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