GENET archive


9-Misc: WTO ruling delayed in transatlantic row over GMOs

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

TITLE:  WTO ruling delayed in transatlantic row over GMOs
SOURCE: Reuters, by Richard Waddington
DATE:   26 Aug 2004

------------------- archive: -------------------

WTO ruling delayed in transatlantic row over GMOs

GENEVA, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has put off
until March a decision on whether the European Union broke trade rules by
not allowing imports of genetically modified foods (GMO), officials said
on Thursday.

But environmentalists said a verdict in the politically charged case,
brought against the European Union by the United States, Argentina and
Canada, could take even longer after trade judges agreed to hear
scientific opinion.

WTO judges had initially been expected to issue a ruling in September or
October, but officials said that it had been put back until the end of
March to give both sides more time to make their case and to let the
judges question scientists.

The judges' decision to take evidence from scientists was seen as a
victory for the EU, which had pressed for their views to be heard, while
the United States and its allies had argued that this was unnecessary.

"I think that next spring is very optimistic (for a decision)," said
Adrian Beeb of green activists Friends of the Earth.

In a previous trade row between the United States and the European Union
involving food and health -- that time over beef hormones -- it had taken
the WTO two years to gather scientific opinion, he noted. The EU
eventually lost the case.

In bringing the case in August last year, the United States and its
allies argued that the then 15-nation EU had flouted trade norms by not
allowing any GMO crops to be grown or imported since 1998, in what
amounted to a de facto ban.

The United States says that there is no scientific evidence for human
health or environmental problems related to biotech products -- two of
the grounds on which WTO rules allow countries to bar imports.

Washington and its allies also argued the WTO had no need to hear
scientists because the argument was over whether or not the EU had
applied its own rules for approving GMO applications.

"The issue is that the EU has a mechanism and that it has not been
applying it. Science does not come into it," said one trade diplomat from
a country involved in the case.

He said that a first scientific hearing was expected in November.

In a move aimed at taking some of the heat out of the case, the EU
authorised the import of a genetically modified maize in May, the first
such approval for five years.

The decision followed months of deadlock between member states and flew
in the face of public opinion in Europe, where consumers are largely
hostile to biotech foods, with opposition rated at more than 70 percent.

Washington applauded the decision but said it was not enough and
diplomats say the real test of whether the moratorium is over will be
when the EU approves the planting of GM crops.

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

TITLE:  GM trade war delayed
        Bush fails to win GM case before election
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe, Brussels
DATE:   26 Aug 2004

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GM trade war delayed
Bush fails to win GM case before election

The outcome of the transatlantic trade dispute on genetically modified
(GM) foods has been substantially delayed as scientists are called in to
debate the safety of GM foods and crops (1). The move is a blow to the
Bush Administration who fought to stop any debate over scientific safety (2).

The United States, Canada and Argentina started proceedings last year in
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over Europe's position on GM foods.
The WTO set up a three-person Panel to meet in secret to decide on the
case. In recent months the US Government has been fighting to prevent the
Panel from calling in scientists and has argued their case on narrow
trade rules. The European Union however has questioned whether the WTO is
the appropriate place to settle such disputes and has been pushing for
scientists to be involved in the debate. In a previous case over the use
of beef hormones the scientific debate lasted for over 600 days.

In May this year campaigners delivered a petition to the WTO signed by
more than 100,000 citizens from 90 countries and more than 544
organisations representing 48 million people. The signatories, including
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and French small farmers' leader Jose Bové, have
called on the WTO not to undermine the sovereign right of any country to
protect its citizens and the environment from GM foods and crops.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"The first round of this dispute may have gone to Europe but the long
term implications of this case could be devastating for everyone. The
World Trade Organisation is a secretive and undemocratic organisation and
should not be deciding what we eat. The long term effects of GM foods and
crops are unknown. Every country should have the right to put public
safety before the economic might of the biotechnology industry."

Contact: Adrian Bebb, GMO expert: +49 1609 490 1163 Alexandra Wandel, WTO
expert: +49 172 748 39 53

(1) The Panel has decided that the case raises scientific and technical
issues on which the Panel might benefit from expert advice. Scientists
will now be appointed by the WTO to prepare an advisory report in writing
from an expert review group.
(2) The US had argued in its WTO submission 'Comments on the EC's final
position whether to seek scientific advice', that there is 'no need or
value in consulting experts'. See

Friends of the Earth Europe campaigns for sustainable and fair societies
and for the protection of the environment, unites more than 30 national
organisations with thousands of local groups and is part of the world's
largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International.


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