6-Regulation: U.S. files WTO case against EU GMO moratorium - U.S.
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TITLE: U.S. AND COOPERATING COUNTRIES FILE WTO CASE AGAINST EU MORATORIUM
ON BIOTECH FOODS AND CROPS
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Press Release No. 0156.03
DATE: May 13, 2003
------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------
U.S. AND COOPERATING COUNTRIES FILE WTO CASE AGAINST EU MORATORIUM ON
BIOTECH FOODS AND CROPS
EU's Illegal, Non-Science based Moratorium
Harmful to Agriculture and the Developing World
WASHINGTON, May 13, 2003 - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick
and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced the United
States, Argentina, Canada, and Egypt will file a World Trade Organization
(WTO) case against the European Union (EU) over its illegal five-year
moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products. Other countries
expressing support for this case by joining it as third parties include:
Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand,
Peru and Uruguay.
Left to Right: Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and U.S. Trade
Representative Robert B. Zoellick announced the United States, Argentina,
Canada, and Egypt will file a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against
the European Union (EU) over its illegal five-year moratorium on
approving agricultural biotech products.
Joining Zoellick and Veneman at the Washington announcement were Dr. C.S.
Prakash (organizer of a pro-agricultural biotech declaration signed by 20
Nobel Laureates and over 3,200 scientists); T.J. Buthelezi, a small
farmer of biotech crops from South Africa; Dr. Diran Makinde, DVM, Ph.D.,
Dean of the School of Agriculture, University of Venda for Science and
Technology, South Africa; Dr. Ariel Alvarez-Morales, Principal Scientist,
Department of Plant Genetic Engineering, Center for Research and Advanced
Studies, Irapuato, Mexico; and, representatives from countries
participating in the case.
--U.S. Biotech Regulatory System
--The EU Ban On Agricultural Biotech Products is Illegal
--The Need to Act Now: The Effects of Europe's Policies Are Spreading
--Five Years of U.S. Patience, Five Years of European Delays
--Choice: Let Consumers Decide
--Biotech Products Can Spur Agricultural Productivity
--Biotech Products Are Safe and Healthy
--Biotech Crops Benefit the Environment
Video of Press Conference: U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick
and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.
Office of the United States Trade Representative
"The EU's moratorium violates WTO rules. People around the world have
been eating biotech food for years. Biotech food helps nourish the
world's hungry population, offers tremendous opportunities for better
health and nutrition and protects the environment by reducing soil
erosion and pesticide use," said Zoellick. "We've waited patiently for
five years for the EU to follow the WTO rules and the recommendations of
the European Commission, so as to respect safety findings based on
careful science. The EU's persistent resistance to abiding by its WTO
obligations has perpetuated a trade barrier unwarranted by the EC's own
scientific analysis, which impedes the global use of a technology that
could be of great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world."
"With this case, we are fighting for the interests of American
agriculture. This case is about playing by the rules negotiated in good
faith. The European Union has failed to comply with its WTO obligations,"
said Veneman. "Biotechnology is helping farmers increase yields, lower
pesticide use, improve soil conservation and water pollution and help
reduce hunger and poverty around the world.
Farmers here and elsewhere must be assured that their crops won't be
unfairly rejected simply because they were produced using biotechnology.
The EU actions threaten to deny the full development of a technology that
holds enormous potential benefits to both producers and consumers
worldwide, while also providing a very significant means to combat hunger
and malnutrition that afflict hundreds of millions of people across the
"The U.S. and the EU have a large and important economic relationship,
and disputes such as this, while very important, make up only one part of
that relationship. The United States will continue to work with the EU to
manage this and other disputes in an appropriate way, and we look forward
to advancing our shared objectives in the Doha global trade negotiations
and other fora," Zoellick added.
The WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) recognizes
that countries are entitled to regulate crops and food products to
protect health and the environment. The WTO SPS agreement requires,
however, that members have "sufficient scientific evidence" for such
measures, and that they operate their approval procedures without "undue
delay." Otherwise, there is a risk countries may without justification
use such regulations to thwart trade in safe, wholesome, and nutritious
Before 1999, the EU approved nine agriculture biotech products for
planting or import. It then suspended consideration of all new
applications for approval, and has offered no scientific evidence for
this moratorium on new approvals. As EU Environment Commissioner Margot
Wallstrom said almost three years ago (July 13, 2000): "We have already
waited too long to act. The moratorium is illegal and not justified...the
value of biotechnology is poorly appreciated in Europe."
Pictured l to r -- Dr. Ariel Alvarez-Morales, Department of Plant Genetic
Engineering, Dr. Diran Makinde, DVM, Ph.D., Dean of the School of
Agriculture, University of Venda for Science and Technology, South
Africa, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, T.J. Buthelezi, a
small farmer of biotech crops from South Africa, Agriculture Secretary
Ann M. Veneman and Dr. C.S. Prakash (organizer of a pro-agricultural
biotech declaration signed by 20 Nobel Laureates and over 3,200 scientists)
Agricultural biotechnology is a continuation of the long tradition of
agricultural innovation that has provided the basis for rising prosperity
for the past millennium. Humankind has historically progressed in
boosting agricultural productivity, quality and choices by harnessing
science to develop new forms of crops.
More than 145 million acres (58 million hectares) of biotech crops were
grown in the world in 2002. Worldwide, about 45% of soy, 11% of corn, 20%
of cotton and 11% of rapeseed are biotech crops. In the United States,
75% of soy, 34% of corn and 71% of cotton are biotech crops.
Numerous organizations, researchers and scientists have determined that
biotech foods pose no threat to humans or the environment. Examples
include the French Academy of Medicine and Pharmacy, and the French
Academy of Sciences, the 3,200 scientists who cosponsored a declaration
on biotech foods and numerous scientific studies including a joint study
conducted by the seven national academies of science (the National
Academies of Science of the United States, Brazil, China, India, and
Mexico, plus the Royal Society of London and the Third World Academy of
In October 1998, the EU stopped approving any new agriculture biotech
products for planting or import. This moratorium had no effect on any
previously-approved products, such as corn and soy, which are still used
and are available in member countries, but it froze the approval process
in the EU. No biotech product has ever been rejected for approval in the EU.
Since the late 1990's, the EU has pursued policies that undermine
agricultural biotechnology and trade in biotech foods. First, six member
states (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Greece & Luxemburg) banned
modified crops approved by the EU, and the Commission refused to
challenge the illegal bans. In 1998, member states began blocking all new
biotech applications. This approval moratorium is causing a growing
portion of U.S. agricultural exports to be excluded from EU markets and
unfairly casting concerns about biotech products around the world,
particularly in developing countries.
The first step in a WTO dispute, which the United States and other
countries are taking today, is to request and conduct consultations in
the next 60 days. WTO procedures are designed to encourage parties to
resolve their differences. If at the end of the 60 days, no resolution
has been achieved, then the U.S. and the cooperating countries may seek
the formation of a dispute settlement panel to hear arguments. Dispute
settlement procedures, including appeal, typically take a total of 18 months.
Contact: Richard Mills, USTR
Alisa Harrison, USDA
Fact sheets and other information are available at www.ustr.gov, www.usda.gov.
[please download the text of the complaint at: http://www.ustr.gov/new/