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6-Regulation: EU Commissioner warns about WTO GE food case

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TITLE:  U.S. may face biotech-food anger - if Washington takes case to WTO
SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal Europe, by Scott Miller and
        Brandon Mitchener, sent by checkbiotech/Syngenta
DATE:   Jan 21, 2003

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U.S. may face biotech-food anger --- if Washington takes case to WTO

BRUSSELS -- U.S. food companies face a consumer backlash in Europe if
Washington follows through on threats to lodge a formal complaint at the
World Trade Organization over the European Union's biotech food policies,
an EU commissioner said.

David Byrne, the EU commissioner for health and consumer protection,
charged that increasingly harsh U.S. rhetoric on Europe's 4 1/2-year ban
on testing new genetically modified food is unfair, arguing Europe is
making progress toward restarting approvals this year.

"If the U.S. or another trading bloc sought a regime on how food was put
on the market in Europe, I think the public would react extremely badly,"
Mr. Byrne said in an interview.

Europe has maintained an effective moratorium on testing genetically
modified food and animal feed, limiting sales to only a small portion of
what the U.S., the world's largest producer of biotech foods, believes it
could sell here. The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-
biotech Applications, a research organization, sees the global market for
biotech crops reaching $5 billion (4.7 billion euros) in 2005, up from
$3.8 billion in 2002.

That has prompted increasingly bitter complaints from the U.S. Earlier
this month, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick called Europe's
stance "luddite" and said that he favored bringing a case to the WTO's
dispute-settlement body. Such a move would likely strain already tender
relations between the world's two largest trading partners.

U.S. officials weighing whether to go ahead with a WTO case say they are
well aware of the downside, including a possible backlash against U.S.
food companies. Even U.S. companies that support taking action say they
are concerned it may hurt their bottom line. But many in the Bush
administration, including Mr. Zoellick, now believe that lodging a WTO
case is important as a matter of principle.

Mr. Byrne didn't indicate specifically what form a European consumer
backlash could take. But trade analysts have warned that Europeans might
steer clear of U.S. food products if Washington brought a WTO case to
protest what consumers could consider an American attempt to restrict
information about the food they find on store shelves.