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6-Regulation: U.S. WTO Dispute Could Bend Poor Nations to GMOs

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  U.S. WTO Dispute Could Bend Poor Nations to GMOs - Groups
SOURCE: Inter Press Service News Agency, by Emad Mekay
DATE:   May 14, 2003

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U.S. WTO Dispute Could Bend Poor Nations to GMOs - Groups

 WASHINGTON, May 14 (IPS) - The U.S. decision to confront a European
Union (EU) de facto ban on genetically modified (GM) food might knock
down the world's main resistance to the controversial process and scare
developing countries into opening their doors to GM crops, say analysts here.

After five years of unsuccessful negotiations with the EU over its delay
on approving genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Bush
administration said Tuesday it was taking its case to the World Trade
Organization (WTO) to get the European block to relax its restrictions.

International consumer groups decried the decision, saying it could hurt
European consumers and open up markets in dozens of developing nations,
whose resistance to GMOs has so far largely hinged on European backing.

In its complaint, Washington argues that barring development of GM foods
in the wealthy economic block is an illegal trade barrier under WTO rules.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said Tuesday that the "EU's
persistent resistance" was actually impeding "global use of a technology
that could be of great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world".

The EU denies that it has enacted a moratorium and says it simply needs
more time to develop systems for tracing and labelling GM foods and feed.

U.S. biotech corporations, the Bush administration and conservative think
tanks here have been arguing that GMO products are safe for human
consumption and that they could alleviate hunger in poor and developing

''In developing countries, the deployment of plant biotechnology can
spell the difference between life and death and between health and
disease for hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people,'' said
Ronald Bailey, author of a pro-GMOs study at the conservative Washington-
based Cato Institute.

There are one billion chronically poor and hungry people in the world,
and low crop yields and costly production technologies are partly to
blame. The use of plant biotechnology in many of those nations has been
allegedly been slowed because of EU resistance to GMOs.

Last year, Africa's famine-stricken nations of Zambia, Zimbabwe and
Mozambique turned down shipments of U.S. GMO aid because of health and
environmental concerns, despite enormous pressure and loud propaganda
campaigns from Washington.

The countries were also worried that they could lose their export markets
in the EU if their crops were contaminated by GMOs.

Consumer groups, charities and development organisations accuse the
biotech industry and the Bush administration of camouflaging their own
financial self-interest by pretending to argue for the welfare of the
world's hungry.

"The Bush administration is catering to the interests of major biotech
corporations rather than human health," said Brent Blackwelder, president
of Friends of the Earth, a leading voice in the battle against GMOs.

U.S. biotechnology giants like Monsanto and Aventis and big agricultural
groups such as the National Corn Growers Association strenuously lobbied
the administration to bring a formal WTO case challenging the EU's
regulatory system for GMO products.

U.S. industry loses some 300 million dollars a year of possible GMO
exports to the EU, but the potential of exports to huge world markets,
like India, is far greater.

The United States is the largest grower of biotech crops in the world,
with 96.3 million acres currently under cultivation.

Biotech crops represent about 75 percent of soy production, 34 percent of
corn and 71 percent of cotton, while the worldwide rates are 45 percent
for soy, 11 percent for corn and 20 percent for cotton.

Consumers groups that have been following the issue for years say that
even if the WTO rules in favour of Washington, European consumers,
farmers and producers have been educated enough to never want to use GM

"The European food industry will simply refuse to stock those products,"
said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the U.S.-based Organic
Consumers Association.

"It'll be a situation where in theory the WTO can enforce this. But in
practice the WTO would be on shaky grounds. There is no way in hell that
they can force the European consumers, supermarkets or farmers to stock
those GMO tainted crops."

Cummins says the real aim of the United States is to frighten poor
developing nations into complying and opening their markets for the
controversial products.

"It's clear that the Europeans will not back down," he said. "They (the
U.S.) are trying to scare smaller countries that are no match with the U.S."

Already Washington has lined up a dozen, mostly client countries, to sign
on to the WTO complaint. These include Egypt, a large African country of
71.5 people run by an undemocratic and authoritarian regime, but also
Canada, another agricultural exporter.

The United States also has a record of using food aid to force GM crops
"down peoples' throats", creating firestorms of resistance in receiving
nations that receive GM products masked as food relief, said Cummins.

Washington is also introducing GMOs to poor nations via training courses
at its Agriculture Department, where hundreds of agriculture officials
from the developing world are instructed in the WTO rules on GM products
and, along the way, about the benefits of biotechnology.

U.S. industry groups have also been using ''technical assistance'' to
fund initiatives that promote "science-based and transparent
biotechnology regulations" in lucrative markets like China, with the aim
of preventing the emergence of biotechnology regulations similar to those
in the EU.

The U.S. industry was alarmed in March 2002 when China introduced bio
safety rules that demanded strict labelling, extensive documentation and
government approval for food shipments. The new rules immediately froze
all soybean shipments from Midwestern U.S. states.

                                  PART II
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TITLE:  EU Defies U.S. in Row over Genetically Modified Foods
SOURCE: Inter Press Service News Agency, by Stefania Bianchi
DATE:   May 14, 2003

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EU Defies U.S. in Row over Genetically Modified Foods

The European Commission has condemned the U.S. decision to file a
complaint with the World Trade Organisation against the European Union's
de facto ban on genetically modified foods.

Senior EU officials dismiss the U.S. administration's move as "legally
unwarranted", "economically unfounded" and "politically unhelpful".

BRUSSELS, May 14 (IPS) - The European Commission has condemned the U.S.
decision to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against
the European Union's de facto ban on genetically modified foods.

The United States consider the current European Union (EU) moratorium on
the commercial development of genetically modified (GM) foods as an
"illegal" barrier under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Senior officials of the 15-nation EU's executive arm, the European
Commission, dismiss the U.S. Administration's move as "legally
unwarranted", "economically unfounded" and "politically unhelpful".

The U.S., along with twelve other agricultural exporting nations,
including Argentina, Canada and Egypt, want the EU to repeal its five-
year moratorium on GM foods, or face sanctions under WTO rules.

U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, accuses the EU of
procrastinating over the issue and says that its resistance to WTO rules
has "perpetuated a trade barrier", impeding the use of a technology that
could "benefit farmers and consumers around the world".

EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, however, argues, "The EU's regulatory
system for GMO's authorisation is in line with WTO rules: it is clear,
transparent and non-discriminatory. There is therefore no issue that the
WTO needs to examine."

In a statement Tuesday, Lamy denied the U.S. claim of a moratorium,
saying, "The EU has authorised GM varieties in the past and is currently
processing applications. So what is the real U.S. motive in bringing a case?"

Lamy's view was echoed by his fellow commissioners.

"We have been working hard in Europe to complete our regulatory system in
line with the latest scientific and international developments. The
finalisation period is imminent," said David Bryne, EU Commissioner for
Health and Consumer Protection.

Margot Wallström, EU Commissioner for the Environment, added that the
Commission would not be rushed over the issue.

"This U.S. move is unhelpful and can only make an already difficult
debate in Europe more difficult. But in the meantime, the Commission
strongly believes that we in Europe should move ahead with completing our
legislation on traceability and labelling and on food and feed, currently
before the European Parliament. We should not be deflected or distracted
from pursuing the right policy for the EU," she said.

This assurance came in the aftermath of anxiety expressed by the non-
governmental organisation Friends of the Earth (FoE) International over
the U.S. move. This was an attempt by the Bush Administration to "prevent
any effective labelling of food derived from GM ingredients," the group
said Monday-

Statements by senior officials in Brussels however indicated that EU is
unlikely to lift the block on GM foods, which is widely supported by
European consumers. There is currently a lack of consumer demand for GM-
products which accounts for the low sales of GMOs on the EU market.

Under the EU system, the prospective effects of GMOs on human, animal and
plant health and the environment have to be scientifically assessed
before being approved for marketing. For four years the EU's regulatory
regime was unable to address the challenges of genetic modification, but
a new regulatory framework was adopted in March 2001 and came into force
in October 2002.

Recently two cotton seed oils for food use have been placed on the market
in the EU following authorisation and a number of new applications for
marketing GMOs are currently at an advanced stage of examination.

The EU is also finalising the adoption of rules on labelling and
traceability, which aim to give EU citizens more information on GMOs.

However, NGOs such as the FoE International fear the latest move by
Washington could bring the full force of WTO sanctions on the European
Union, giving the U.S. the right to impose retaliatory tariffs on EU goods.

EU consumer and green lobby groups have opposed the U.S. claim, saying it
goes against the wishes of the majority of consumers in Europe.

"If this attempt succeeds, the U.S. will force GM foods onto European
markets regardless of the wishes of the consumers. The European
Commission and national governments must find the courage to stand up to
this outrageous piece of bullying. Decisions over the future of GM crops
in Europe must not be made by George Bush in the White House," says FoE
policy director Liana Stupples.

U.S. Trade Representative Zoellick has threatened a WTO case on the EU on
several occasions, most recently in January this year. But it is believed
that it was postponed in the run-up to the war in Iraq as the U.S. tried
to gain EU support.

Zoellick says that the EU's resistance over GMOs has resulted in a number
of developing countries cutting down on the production of GM crops
because they cannot export them to European countries. This, he said, was
harming farmers worldwide.

However, in recent years, a number of developing countries suffering food
shortages, including Zambia and Zimbabwe, have refused GMO food aid and
the European Commission says that it is the right of the governments in
such countries to make decisions over GM foods.

The row over GM foods also threatens to hinder a deal on agriculture
under the Doha Round of global trade talks within the WTO. The U.S. and
EU are in a dispute over agricultural reform in developing countries. (END)