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6-Regulation: EU official sees boycotts if US files WTO GE suit

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TITLE:  EU official sees boycotts if US files biotech suit
SOURCE: Reuters, by Richard Cowan 
DATE:   May 8, 2003

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EU official sees boycotts if US files biotech suit

WASHINGTON - European consumers could boycott American goods if the Bush
administration challenges the legality of the EU's moratorium on
genetically modified foods and drugs, an EU official said.

With U.S.-EU ties still strained over the war in Iraq, the filing of a
World Trade Organization (WTO) complaint could provoke a consumer
backlash in Europe that "could trigger a boycott of American food
products," said Tony Van der haegen, a biotech policy expert at the
European Commission office in Washington.

For months, the Bush administration has left open the possibility it
would initiate a WTO complaint against the EU's refusal to approve new
biotech products.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, a Republican from the
corn-producing state of Iowa, this week met with several Bush
administration officials, urging them to immediately file the complaint.

Grassley said if no decision to file a WTO case is made within two weeks,
he would try to stir up more pressure, including delivering a statement
on the Senate floor. But he acknowledged he had no tools to quickly force
the administration to act.

The European Commission itself has been trying to get the five-year-old
moratorium lifted, arguing that 12 of 13 new biotech products have been
approved by a scientific committee.

The EC frets that Europe risks losing its biotech industry without quick
action. But European consumers' fears of biotech foods have also slowed
lifting the moratorium. Once it is removed, new labeling and traceability
standards for biotech goods could prompt a U.S. legal challenge.

Speaking at an event hosted by the National Foreign Trade Council, Van
der haegen said that given the fragile relations between Europe and
America over Iraq and Europe's intention to lift the moratorium within a
few months, it might "not be worth going to the WTO anymore."

This winter, the Bush administration appeared to be on the verge of
filing the complaint, as top officials, including U.S Trade
Representative Robert Zoellick, said their patience had run out with the
EU. But as war drew near, the administration put off a decision.

The National Foreign Trade Council, comprising 400 U.S. companies,
released a report this week accusing the EU and some other countries of
imposing burdensome standards and regulations that block imports of food,
electronics, computers and a range of other goods.