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9-Misc: WTO condemns EU over GMO moratorium



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

TITLE:  WTO condemns EU over GMO moratorium: diplomats
SOURCE: Reuters
        http://go.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?
type=politicsNews&storyID=11128421&src=rss/ElectionCoverage
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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WTO condemns EU over GMO moratorium: diplomats

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization, in a closely watched
ruling, decreed on Tuesday that the European Union and six member states
broke trade rules by barring entry to genetically modified crops and
foods, diplomats said.
The preliminary decision, contained in a confidential verdict sent to
the parties to the dispute, followed a complaint against the EU brought
by the United States, Argentina and Canada.

In a 1,000-page report, which diplomats said they were still seeking to
digest, WTO trade judges said the EU applied an effective moratorium on
GMO imports for six years from 1998. Moratoriums are barred under WTO rules.

"The panel confirmed that there was a moratorium, and that is not
allowed," said one diplomat who had seen the findings.

"Members' safeguard measures have also been condemned," he said in
reference to the complaint against individual market and import bans
imposed by France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece.

But diplomats said that other parts of the WTO ruling, which also
covered individual crops and foods, were more mixed, although they were
still wading through the detail.

Diplomats and industry watchers had forecast the EU could come off worst
in the case in which the three complainants argued that the moratorium
on GMO approvals hurt their exports and was not based on science.

The ruling was keenly awaited by the world's biotech industry which
would like to ship far more GMOs to Europe.

Europe's shoppers are known for their wariness toward GMO products,
often dubbed as "Frankenstein foods." Opposition is estimated at more
than 70 percent, a stark contrast to the United States where they are
far more widely accepted.

U.S. farmers say the EU ban cost them some $300 million a year in lost
sales while it was in effect since many U.S. agricultural products,
including most U.S. corn, were effectively barred from entering EU markets.


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

TITLE:  Q&A: Trade battle over GM food
SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/4690010.stm
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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Q&A: Trade battle over GM food

The World Trade Organization is about to rule on a case brought by the
US, Canada and Argentina against the EU's 1998-2004 unofficial
moratorium on approval of GM foods. Its 1,112-page preliminary ruling,
due on 7 February, remains officially confidential until a final ruling
is released, some weeks later. The BBC News website explains what the
case is all about.


What is the accusation?

The US, Canada and Argentina say that the de facto EU moratorium - a
period of six years in which the EU authorised no genetically modified
organisms - was not scientifically justified and amounted to an unfair
trade barrier. The complainants also say the EU system for approving GM
products is still not working properly, even though the moratorium has
been lifted.


What is the EU's defence?

The EU says every country has the "sovereign right to make its own
decisions on GMOs in accordance with the values prevailing in its
society". It began to authorise GMOs again in 2004 after introducing two
sets of new rules on:
Labelling - ensuring consumers would know when they were buying a GM product
Traceability - ensuring products containing GMOs could be traced and
recalled if necessary.
The EU says its current system for authorising GM products on a case-by-
case basis is designed to ensure they are safe for the environment,
human health and animal health.


How much economic damage did the moratorium do?

US farmers say that the ban cost them $300m per year in lost sales. For
example, US maize exports to Europe fell sharply. However, the EU says
this is partly due to the fact that the US is now less competitive than
some other exporters, such as Brazil and Argentina. It says imports from
these countries have not been affected by its rules on GMOs.


Is the EU now approving GMOs again?

There have been at least 10 approvals since mid-2004 (though three were
for different uses of the same product). Overall, more than 30 GMOs or
derived food and animal feed products have been approved for marketing
in the EU. However, some countries such as Austria, France, Germany,
Greece and Luxembourg still have national bans, known as safeguards, on
some types of GM maize and rapeseed. The case taken by the US, Canada
and Argentina to the WTO complains about this too.


What is the point of the case, now that GMOs are being approved again?

The US says it still needs to be convinced that the EU is judging
applications for approval of GM products on scientific rather than
political grounds. The EU responds that its approval process "may appear
to be lengthy for some countries which adopt a more lenient approach
towards food and environmental safety issues". The US also hopes that a
sympathetic WTO ruling will prevent European concerns about GM foods
spreading to other parts of the world. These first arose when Zimbabwe
refused a shipment of US food aid in 2002. Zambia and Ethiopia have also
raised concerns about GM food donations.



Are Europeans still opposed to GM foods?

GMO ROW TIMELINE
1994: EU authorises first GM product
1997: Austria bans a type of GM maize even though it has EU approval
1998: EU approves GM food product for last time until 2004
1999: France and Greece lead calls for de facto moratorium on GMO approvals
2003: US, Canada and Argentina take case against EU to WTO
2004: EU laws on labelling and traceability come into effect, and GMO
approvals resume
Yes, a Eurobarometer poll in 2005 indicated that 54% of European
consumers think GM food is dangerous.
Most European supermarkets choose not to stock products containing GM
products on the grounds that many clients would decide to shop elsewhere.

The environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth says a WTO ruling
against the EU could increase this popular opposition.


Why is there such a difference between European and US attitudes to GMOs?

One reason is that Europe has experienced a number of serious food
scares, from
mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth to bird flu. Some experts also say
that US citizens trust the Food and Drug Administration far more than
Europeans trust their food safety regulators.


How long has this argument been rumbling on?

France and Greece originally called for a de facto EU moratorium on
approvals of GMOs in June 1999. It came into effect a bit later, when
they won the backing of Italy, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium and Austria.
The US announced its intention to bring a case to the WTO in May 2003.
It was formally lodged in August 2003. The WTO decided to gather the
views of independent scientists from both the US and Europe, which
lengthened the process. The preliminary ruling has been delayed more
than once, and stretches to more than 1,000 pages - both signs of the
complexity of the case.


                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Syngenta Not Seen Impacted By WTO Ruling
SOURCE: Dow Jones Newswires
        http://www.newratings.com/analyst_news/article_1199532.html
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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Syngenta Not Seen Impacted By WTO Ruling

Syngenta's (SYT) business is note expected to be impacted by the World
Trade Organization's ruling on whether the EU's ban on genetically-
modified crops is illegal or not, says Bank Sarasin analyst Bernd
Pomrehn. Even if the WTO's ruling lifts the moratorium on GMO-based food
products in the EU, the European consumer won't easily change its
aversion toward GMO food, says Pomrehn, which is the real reason that
holds back further spread of GMO in Europe. Rates Syngenta at buy.
Shares -1% at CHF171.60. (SWZ)


                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  WTO DRAFT RULING ON EU-US BIOTECH FOODS WAR EXPECTED SHORTLY
        Friends of the Earth calls for a new world trade system
SOURCE: Friends of the Earth Europe. media advisory
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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WTO DRAFT RULING ON EU-US BIOTECH FOODS WAR EXPECTED SHORTLY
Friends of the Earth calls for a new world trade system

Brussels/Geneva, 7 February 2006 - Friends of the Earth Europe today
called for a deep-rooted reform of the international trade system if the
World Trade Organisation (WTO) over-rules European Union attempts to
protect its people and environment from genetically modified (GM) foods
and crops.

In a draft ruling expected shortly on the transatlantic trade dispute
over GM foods, the WTO will inform the countries involved whether
national bans on GM products are a barrier to free trade and should be
lifted. It is also likely to show whether Europe's de facto moratorium
between 1998 and 2004 on new GM foods was also a barrier to trade.

The European Commission has already today issued a memo which clearly
exposes what is at stake. Should the world follow the de-regulation,
business-driven approach of the US or should it follow the regulatory,
safety-first approach of the European Union? The number of GM accidents
in the US strongly suggests that the EU model is better to protect
people and their environment. (1)

Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe's Trade Co-ordinator,
said: "Protecting wildlife, farmers and consumers from the threat of
genetically modified crops is far more important than enforcing free
trade rules. The World Trade Organisation with its secretive decision-
making processes is unfit to decide what we should eat or what farmers
should grow. The WTO is undemocratic, and unfairly favours big business.
A new global trading system is needed that protects people and the
environment from the worst excesses of industry."

Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
"Opposition to genetically modified foods is likely to increase if the
WTO decides that European safeguards should be sacrificed to benefit
biotech corporations. Consumers worldwide will not be bullied into
eating GM foods. European governments must stand up to the WTO and
protect the food chain and the environment from the threat of
genetically modified crops."

Friends of the Earth points out that: * Opposition to GM foods and crops
in Europe has increased since the beginning of the trade dispute. There
are now over 170 regions and 4,500 smaller areas that want to be GM-
free. * An alternative dispute settlement procedure is needed to solve
trade and environmental conflicts. This could be the International Court
of Justice or the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Additionally, the UN
Biosafety Protocol is an international agreement already in place that
deals with trade in GMOs.

* The first ten years of GM crops have failed to deliver the benefits
promised by the biotech industry and have played no role in tackling
poverty and hunger (2).

An international campaign against the WTO dispute called "Bite-back -
WTO: Hands off our food!" - is supported by 750 organisations
representing some 60 million people (see www.bite-back.org). The
coalition states that the industry-friendly WTO is not the right place
to decide what food Europeans should eat. (3)

The "Bite Back" citizens' objection was initiated by Friends of the
Earth International with the support of consumer, development and
farmers' groups, trade unions, research institutes and citizens from
over 100 countries.

[1] European Commission Press Release:
http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/
06/61&type=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

[2] A special media briefing on the GM trade dispute is available at:
www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_and_WTO_interim_briefing_Feb2006.pdf
as well as a fact sheet on GMOs and the WTO, see
www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_and_WTO_QA_Feb2006.pdf

En Français:

Briefing pour la presse sur le conflit commercial transatlantique sur
les aliments modifiés génétiquement:
www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/G
MO_et_WTO_briefing_intermediaire_Feb2006_FR.pdf

Les OGM en Europe et l'OMC - Questions réponses
www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_et_WTO_QR_Feb2006_FR.pdf

FOE report: Who benefits from GM crops, January 2006-02-07
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/
who_benefits_from_gm_crops_Jan_2006.pdf

[3] Is the WTO the only way? Safeguarding Multilateral Environmental
Agreements from international trade rules and settling trade and
environment disputes outside the WTO. A briefing paper by Adelphi
Consult, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace. Available at
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2005/alternatives_wto.pdf

CONTACT:
Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth WTO expert, +49 172 748 3953
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth GMO expert, +49 1609 490 1163


                                 PART V
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Europe's rules on GMOs and the WTO
SOURCE: European Commission, MEMO/06/61
        http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/
06/61&type=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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Europe's rules on GMOs and the WTO
There is a need for strong regulatory oversight of GM technology

There is a general consensus between scientists that GMOs are not
inherently unsafe, but that their safety for the environment, human
health and animal health needs to be assessed on a case by case basis
before marketing. This approach is supported by international
organisations such as the World Health Organisation, the Codex
Alimentarius, the FAO or the OECD. The EU legislation follows strictly
the internationally recommended approach and reflects the requirements
of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to which the EU is a signatory.

The EU regulatory framework also provides for strict monitoring of GM
products after their initial release to market through the
implementation of mandatory labelling and traceability rules. The EU
believes that such regulatory oversight is of utmost importance to
address any potential failure of the regulatory system, such as those
that have been experienced in the US in the recent past when non-
approved GMOs such as Starlink GM maize, or Bt 10 GM maize entered the
US food chain.

The EU has no ban on safe GM products

In the EU, GMOs can only be placed on the market after having undergone
a stringent science-based risk assessment on a case by case basis. This
approach is fully in line with international standards, in particular
with the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as well as with the relevant
Guidelines adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2003 and by
the International Conventional on Plant Protection.

So far, more than 30 GMOs or derived food and feed products have been
approved for marketing in the EU. As an example, in early January 2006,
the EU granted approvals to three new GM maize products after a rigorous
safety assessment.

Contrary to US claims, the EU is one of the largest importers of GMOs
and derived food and feed. The EU is the largest soybean and soy meal
importer and the fact is that soy imports consist largely of Monsanto
"Round-Up Ready" soybean, which is cultivated in all the main soybean
global producers, i.e. the US, Brazil and Argentina. The claim that the
there is a moratorium on approval of GM products in Europe is self-
evidently untrue.

The EU approval process may appear to be lengthy for some countries
which adopt a more lenient approach towards food and environmental
safety issues. The longer times to assess the safety of GMOs in the EU
are due to the complexity of the science involved as well as to delays
incurred by biotech companies to provide suitable data demonstrating the
safety of the products.

The WTO challenge on GMOs is unhelpful and unfounded

In May 2003, the US, supported by Canada and Argentina, launched a WTO
case against the EU concerning the EU authorisation regime for GMOs.
Whilst the three complainants publicly argue that the WTO case is
straightforward and clear, the panel has taken a number of years to
reach final conclusions on the dispute. This shows that the matters at
stake are far more complex than claimed by the US, Argentina and Canada.

Indeed, against the arguments of all three complainants, the WTO panel
agreed with the EU that it would be unwise to rule on such a complex
topic without hearing the views of scientists. The panel eventually
decided to gather the views of independent and highly reputable
scientists from different parts of the world, including Europe and
America. That consultation process confirmed the legitimacy of the
health and environmental issues addressed in EU regulations and
procedures. The US has explicitly said that it does not challenge the
EU's legal framework for clearing GMOs for import and distribution.

10 years after the first commercial release, 90% of GMOs remain
cultivated in 4 countries : USA (55%), Argentina (19%), Brazil (10%),
Canada (6%).

The EU remains confident that its regulatory regime over GMOs and GM
food and feed is fully compatible with its international commitments
including those under the WTO. The US has not at any stage challenged
the EU's legal framework.

What are the US's real concerns with the EU system?

The US appears not to like the EU authorisation regime, which it
considers to be too stringent, simply because it takes longer to approve
a GMO in Europe than in the US. The US appears to believe that GMOs that
are considered to be safe in the US should be de facto deemed to be safe
for the rest of the world. The EU has argued that a sovereign body like
the EU and its Member States, or indeed any country in the world, has
the right to enact its own regulations on the food that its citizens
would eat, providing that the measures are compatible with existing
international rules and based on clear scientific evidence.

The US also opposes GMO traceability rules because it considers that
they constitute an obstacle to US commodity exports, despite the fact
that US traders can in fact meet those requirements without difficulties.

The US is also adamantly opposed to labelling rules for food products
produced from GMOs, even though these rules are designed to help ensure
that customers are well-informed about what they are buying.

US soybean and soy meal exports have steadily declined over the last ten
years because of a decline of competitiveness of US agriculture on the
global market. The trends in EU maize imports further confirm that US
farmers are no longer low-cost producers and are less and less able to
compete with emerging countries such as Brazil or Argentina on global
commodity markets. EU trade data show clearly that EU rules on GM are
not affecting the imports of more competitive GMO exporters.

Getting the rules on GMOs right.

The EU has always acknowledged that biotechnology offers promising
avenues to develop agricultural production, in particular for developing
countries, and it can contribute to the fight against food insecurity.

The EU has always made it clear that every country has the sovereign
right to make its own decisions on GMOs in accordance with the values
prevailing in its society. This principle obviously applies to both
developed and developing countries. It is the legitimate right of
developing countries' governments to fix their own level of protection
and to take the decisions they deem appropriate to prevent unintentional
dissemination of GM seeds. This right is fully recognised in
international agreements such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
which the EU considers to be the key international agreement governing
the transboundary movements of GMOs.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety provides an international forum for
the international governance of GMOs. So far more than 130 countries
actively participate to it. However, the US, Canada and Argentina have
refused to ratify it.

The EU considers that major GMO producers such as the US should adopt a
co-operative approach to the development of a sound international legal
framework for these products, instead of taking hostile steps at the WTO.

For more information on the EU regulatory framework covering GMOs, GM
food and feed is available at
http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/food/biotechnology/index_en.htm



                                 PART VI
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  EU braces for landmark WTO ruling on biotech ban
SOURCE: Reuters, by Jeremy Smith
DATE:   06  Feb 2006

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EU braces for landmark WTO ruling on biotech ban

The European Union could be forced to open itself to more genetically
modified products this week when a world trade panel rules whether its
strict policy on biotech foods and crops amounts to protectionism.

Diplomats and industry watchers say the EU may come off worst in the
case brought by Argentina, Canada and the United States, where they
claim its unofficial 1998-2004 moratorium on GMO approvals hurt their
exports and was not based on science.

The World Trade Organization verdict, keenly awaited on Tuesday by the
world's biotech industry which would like to ship far more GMOs to
Europe, is expected to run to some 800 pages.

Already delayed several times, the ruling may be the WTO's longest and
certainly one of the most complex to decipher.

Europe's shoppers are known for their wariness toward GMO products,
often dubbed as "Frankenstein foods." Opposition is estimated at more
than 70 percent, a stark contrast to the United States where they are
far more widely accepted.

U.S. farmers say the EU ban cost them some $300 million a year in lost
sales while it was in effect since many U.S. agricultural products,
including most U.S. corn, were effectively barred from entering EU markets.

Despite the moratorium ending in May 2004 with a rubberstamp EU approval
of a canned modified sweetcorn, plus a trickle of authorizations since
then, the three complainants say Europe's biotech approvals process is
still not working properly.


EUROPE SCEPTICAL

While the WTO is unlikely to issue a clear-cut condemnation of EU
policy, it may well criticize areas like the string of national bans on
specific GMO products in several EU countries.

These products had already won EU-wide approval but several governments
used a legal exemption clause to enact national bans -- a particular
annoyance for the three complainants and specifically cited in their
original WTO complaint in 2003.

Most observers believe the EU will come in for criticism.

"It's unlikely the WTO would tell the EU that it should be more
restrictive on GMOs," one EU diplomat said. "Irrespective of the way the
WTO rules, it will be a reminder that the EU has to make its decisions
on the basis of evidence."

Green groups said the pressure of the WTO case was making Europe take a
much more pro-active stance on GMOs than warranted by its poor consumer
demand for the foods. A ruling against Europe would merely increase that
skepticism, they say.

"Opposition to genetically modified foods is likely to increase if the
WTO decides that European safeguards (national bans) should be
sacrificed to benefit biotech corporations," said Adrian Bebb, GMO
Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

"The WTO, the U.S. administration and biotech firms should stop their
bullying and let Europeans decide what food we eat."

The European Commission, which administers and instigates legislation
for the EU-25, says the EU has put in place tough but fair laws since
1998 to ensure a smooth approvals process, so there is no reason to
change them -- whatever the WTO says.

It insists that the case is not about Europe's GMO policy as such but
what happened between 1998 and 2004. All applications for GMO approvals
will continue to be processed and approved on a case-by-case basis using
scientific criteria, it says.

"Whatever happens in the panel, our system aims to guarantee the unity
of the internal market and complete safety for human health and the
environment," a Commission official said.


--


GENET
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig
Germany

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