GENET archive


9-Misc: WTO decision on EU GMO moratorium: NGOs & industry

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Greenpeace dismisses WTO ruling and predicts Europe will stay
        closed to GMOs
SOURCE: Greenpeace International
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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Greenpeace dismisses WTO ruling and predicts Europe will stay closed to GMOs

BRUSSELS/GENEVA, International -- Greenpeace tonight dismissed as
irrelevant a WTO ruling that reportedly backs the US, Canada and
Argentina in their efforts to force Europe to accept genetically
modified organisms (GMOs); according to first press reports, the WTO
decided that EU national bans contravened trade rules. The environmental
organisation considers that just as the WTO case did not challenge EU
laws designed to protect the environment, it could not be used to
undermine existing international agreements on biosafety.

"U.S agro-chemical giants will not sell a bushel more of their GM grain
as a result of the WTO ruling. European consumers, farmers and a growing
number of governments remain opposed to GMOs, and this will not change -
in Europe or globally," said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International
trade advisor. "The $300 million lost exports for US GM maize growers
per year (1) will continue, and remain a warning to exporting countries
that GMOs are not wanted in Europe."

"This verdict only proves that the WTO puts trade interests above all
others and is unqualified to deal with complex scientific and
environmental issues. The US administration and agro-chemical companies
brought the case in a desperate attempt to force-feed markets with GMOs,
but will continue to be frustrated," said Daniel Mittler.

In August 2003, the US, Canada and Argentina took the EU to the WTO for
suspending approvals for biotech products, and for six member states'
national bans on EU-approved GMOs.

Despite the ongoing case in Geneva, European governments voted with a
clear majority in 2005 to retain existing national bans on GMOs (2) and
individual countries continue to reject GMOs. Greece last week announced
an extension of its ban on seeds from a type of GM maize produced by
Monsanto. Austria also recently announced its intention to ban the
import of a GM oilseed rape. These bans, in addition to those imposed
last year by Hungary and Poland, 172 regions in Europe which have
declared themselves GMO-free zones, and a Swiss moratorium decided by
public referendum, show that Europe is steadfast in rejecting GMOs.

EU legislation on the approval and labelling of GMOs is not at stake and
will remain unaffected by the outcome of the WTO case.

Notes to Editor

1. The US claims $200 million lost sales for corn products alone, $300
million for corn and soy products. See "European Commission Opts Not To
Push For End of GMO Moratorium," INSIDE U.S. TRADE, January 25, 2002 ; or

2. The EU Commission tried to use the WTO case to force five European
countries (Greece, France, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany) attacked by
the US to lift their national bans (Italy, the sixth, lifted its ban two
years ago). When the EU Commission put its proposals aimed at the
lifting of bans to a vote at the EU Council of Environment ministers on
24 June 2005, 22 countries out of 25 voted against the Commission's
proposals and decided that the bans were justified and should remain in
place. This forced the EU Commission to withdraw its proposals.
Greenpeace briefing on national safeguard clauses ('bans'):

3. A Greenpeace briefing on the WTO dispute on GMOs is available at

Contact information
Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International WTO expert +49 171 876 5345
(currently in Dubai)
Eric Gall, Greenpeace EU Unit, GE expert, +32 496 161 582 (in Brussels)
Katharine Mill, Greenpeace EU Unit media officer, +32 496 156 229 (in

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

TITLE:  Public Citizen Denounces WTO Tribunal Decision on Genetically
        Modified Foods
SOURCE: Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen's Global
        Trade Watch, USA
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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Public Citizen Denounces WTO Tribunal Decision on Genetically Modified Foods

Unfortunately, today's decision by a World Trade Organization (WTO)
tribunal in favor of the U.S. challenge against European policies on
genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not very surprising given the
many outrageous WTO rules limiting how countries can regulate a wide
array of non-trade issues, even including what sort of food will be
found in people's homes.

The WTO's invasion of such a hyper-sensitive, value-laden policy about
something as intimate as the very nature of food on every European
dinner table is certain to throw even more doubt on the already-shaky
Doha Round WTO expansion talks. If the WTO can meddle with domestic
policies about what food comes into our homes, it makes very clear that
the last thing anyone needs is to expand the power or scope of this
unaccountable, corporate-controlled body.

This ruling against Europe's right to set its own GMO policies is the
WTO's Valentine's Day love letter to one of its favorites giant

agribusiness - by using the WTO's retrograde rules to attempt to force
Frankenfoods on the rest of the world regardless of what consumers and
their elected representatives say.

Nothing does more to promote the demise of the global trading system
than these U.S.-European battles over non-trade issues that expose how
the WTO invades our democratic rights to set our own domestic policies.
The more the two biggest backers of the WTO keep shooting at each other
using the WTO, the more tattered the WTO flag becomes and the clearer it
is to consumers that the democratic policies protecting our families'
health and safety are among the biggest casualties at WTO.

The United States has already lost the fight for GMOs in Europe. No WTO
suit will force a savvy European consumer who enjoys mandatory labeling
to eat any product they don't want. Thus, it is clear that the WTO GMO
suit is a bald-faced attempt by the United States to frighten other
nations away from following Europe's example and regulating these
products to protect the environment and public health.

The United States may have won this battle, but it is rapidly loosing
the GMO war. This WTO ruling will only increase consumer suspicion of
genetically modified foods and of a global trading system that subsumes
the public interest to the interests of DuPont, Dow, Monsanto and other
agribusiness giants eager to force feed consumers products about which
consumers have deep concerns.

Today half the world's population lives in countries that require pre-
market approval of GMOs. Even in the United States, where agribusiness
has secured a deregulated market for GMOs and is conducting an open GMO
experiment on the U.S. environment and U.S. consumers, there are three
counties in California that ban all GMO crops. In the developing world,
South Korea was once the number-two buyer of U.S. corn but now buys GMO-
free corn elsewhere. China now looks to Brazil for GMO-free soy. These
are market losses for U.S. GMO producers based on choices by U.S.
agribusiness to pursue the GMO strategy, which makes resorting to the
WTO, a body allegedly promoting free markets, a perverse way to try to
remedy bad market choices by some players.

Scientific evidence of environmental harms caused by genetically
engineered crops and the threat to human health posed by pharmaceuticals
grown in food crops will not dissipate, and neither will concentrate
efforts by concerned government officials to regulate these crops to
protect biodiversity, ecosystems and human health. Trying to use the WTO
to reverse this trend will only boomerang on the WTO.

Get ready Dow, DuPont and Monsanto: You will reap what you sow. The
WTO's declaration that national bans on specific GMO products are WTO-
illegal will send shock waves around the world. From California to Saudi
Arabia, there are hundreds of declared GMO-free zones. This attack on
democracy will not get your Bt-corn tortillas on supermarket shelves any
faster, but will prompt more and more consumers around the globe to
enact policies declaring their regional and national governments GMO-
free and to campaign against the WTO.

Forcing unwanted GMOs on unwilling nations is not just stupid politics:
It is a violation of international law. The Biosafety Protocol protects
the right of nations to regulate these products in the public interest.
The best way for nations to greet this news from the WTO is to stand
their ground and implement much-needed pre-market approval, safety
testing, traceability and labeling programs.

For more information, click here.

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

TITLE:  BIO Statement on WTO Case
DATE:   07 Feb 2006

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BIO Statement on WTO Case

Sean Darragh, Executive Vice President for Food and Agriculture of the
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), released the following
statement regarding on the World Trade Organization's interim report
issued today on the European Union's failure to approve new biotech crops.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 7, 2006) --"News reports indicate a favorable
outcome in the case to reopen Europe's markets to crops improved through
biotechnology. Although we have not reviewed the report, we believe that
the United States, Argentina and Canada had sound legal basis in asking
the World Trade Organization to determine if the European Union was in
violation of its trade obligations by failing to approve new biotech
crops in a timely manner.

"Resolution of this issue is important to farmers around the world. The
European Union's inaction has effectively blocked up to $300 million of
U.S. agricultural exports annually to the detriment of American farmers.
Globally, more than eight million farmers in 21 countries have already
adopted biotech crops. They have grown them on more than a billion acres
in the past ten years, and have reaped the benefits of increased
productivity and environmental sustainability.

"The U.S. biotechnology industry continues to support a science-based
regulatory process to ensure that farmers around the globe have access
to biotech crops. Regardless of the outcome of the WTO dispute
settlement case, BIO members, in cooperation with their EU counterparts,
will continue to work diligently with EU officials to establish a
scientific, timely, rules-based review and approval system for
agricultural biotechnology products."

BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic
institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations
across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved
in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial
and environmental biotechnology products.


Note to editors: Fact sheets on this issue from the United States Trade
Representative can be viewed at:

Lisa Dry 202-962-9231 direct_202-345-3673 mobile

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

TITLE:  Q&A on the WTO trade dispute over genetically modified products
SOURCE: EuropaBio, Belgium
DATE:   Jan 2006

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Q&A on the WTO trade dispute over genetically modified products

The issue in brief

In May 2003, the United States (US), Canada and Argentina initiated a
WTO dispute settlement process against the European Union (EU), citing
an alleged de facto moratorium on approvals of biotechnology products,
as well as the existence of individual Member State (Austria, Luxembourg
and Italy) marketing and import prohibitions on previously approved
biotechnology products. According to these countries these prohibitions
were not scientifically justified and thus contrary to WTO rules.

In August 2003, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body announced the formation
of a single panel to rule on the case.  In April 2004, the first
submissions of evidence began, and several other WTO members, including
Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Mexico, New Zealand and Peru,
reserved their rights as third parties to benefit from the ruling.

A interim report including findings and conclusions is expected to be
submitted by an expert panel of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB)
on the 7th of February 2006 to the two sides. A final ruling will ensue
in the following weeks.


Why did the US, Canada and Argentina take their case to the WTO?
The U.S., Canada and Argentina believe that the EU's de facto moratorium
has significantly harmed their export markets, particularly corn
shipments which typically include GM varieties, and these are a critical
source of revenue for farmers in these countries.

The EU is the fourth largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), agricultural
exports from the U.S. to the EU are projected at $7 billion for 2005,
nearly 12% of all U.S. agricultural exports. The main export products
are soybeans, tobacco, and animal feed, including corn gluten .

The countries argued that de facto moratorium is without scientific
basis,  indeed, they argue that EU has never offered any scientific
evidence to justify the moratorium or the marketing bans by the Member
States. They also argue that moves by the EU were inconsistent with WTO
free trade agreements, particularly the Agreement on Technical Barriers
to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and
Phytosanitary Measures (SPS).

The SPS recognizes that countries are entitled to regulate crops and
food products to protect health and the environment. The agreement
requires, however, ""sufficient scientific evidence" to support trade-
restrictive regulations on crops and food products to protect health and
environment  (Articles 2.2 and 5.1). The SPS Agreement also calls for
approval procedures to be carried out without "undue delay", (Article 8
and Annex C(1)(a).
What does the EU defence claim?
The EU's defence claims that delays are not "undue," but provisional,
and are the result of incomplete information pertaining to risk
assessments.  They also deny the existence of a moratorium, citing that
no official communication to this effect has ever been made.

Are the biotech products in question safe?
According to the EU's own regulatory bodies (European Commission, the
European Food Safety Authority, and various EC scientific committees),
yes the biotech products in question are safe.  Before any GM foods (or
processed food products with GM ingredients) are approved for
commercialisation in the European Union, they are tested rigorously by
independent expert committees. These bodies approve a new GM food only
when they are completely satisfied that it is as safe as its
conventional counterpart. Similar safety assessment mechanisms exist in
other parts of the world.

The EU has never offered any scientific evidence to justify the
moratorium or the marketing bans by the Member States.

Why did the EU's approval process for GM products really fail?

Despite extensive efforts to develop a uniform EU-wide policy for
approvals and trade in GM crops and foods, negative media coverage and
actions by opponents to biotechnology pushed the issue of GM foods
quickly to the forefront of political debate in Europe. As such, in the
late 1990s  biotechnology and GMOs became politically unpopular and
politicians found it difficult to approve GM crops and foods despite
numerous scientific reviews that invalidated safety concerns.

The EU reacted to this by adopting the "precautionary principle" in
evaluating the safety of GM products. Under the EU precautionary
principle, scientific research must be exhaustive and prove
categorically that a food product is safe before it can be approved for
production and sale. As a result, applying the precautionary principle
to GM products can cause their approval to be delayed for years or even

Does the UN Biosafety Protocol not allow the use of the precautionary
principle to ban the import of GMOs...?

The EU argues that its' actions were taken under both the Biosafety
Protocol and the WTO SPS Agreement. The U.S. argues that Protocol should
not be used in the WTO ruling because it is not mentioned in any of the
SPS Agreement.  Thus, the answer to this question will depend on what
the panel decides on how these relate to each other, if at all.

The Protocol does not contain any specific provision to legitimizes a
ban.  In fact, the Preamble of the Protocol "recognizes that modern
biotechnology has great potential for human well-being if developed and
used with adequate safety measures for the environment and human
health."  It also says that "trade and environment agreements should be
mutually supportive to achieve sustainable development."

The EU has approved a small number of product applications since the
beginning of the case, does that not mean that the moratorium has ended?
No. The fact that the European Commission has approved a small number of
product applications since this panel was established is no indication
that the moratorium has ended because:
- The vast majority of products remain stalled at various stages of the
approval process.  It cannot be determined that a moratorium has ended
until the EC's approval procedures are fully operational and all
applications are moving through those procedures to a final decision
without undue delay.
- Actions taken by the European Commission since the Panel was
established are not relevant to its decision.  A WTO panel is generally
competent to consider measures in existence at the time of its
establishment.  The Panel's obligation, therefore, is to render a
decision on the EC's measures as they existed on August 29, 2003.

Can individual countries put in place pre-marketing approval procedures
for agricultural products?

Yes. The US, Canada and Argentina are not challenging the right of a
Member to maintain pre-marketing approval procedures for agricultural
products (indeed, all three Complainants have them).  Nor are the
complainants challenging the EC's underlying regulations.  Rather, the
claims are based on the EC's failure to implement those regulations and
procedures in a WTO consistent manner, which has resulted in a violation
of its WTO commitments.

What happens next?

Once the parties involved receive the interim report:
- Both sides have one week to ask the panel for a review of the interim
- The period of review must not exceed two weeks. During that time, the
panel may hold additional meetings with the two sides.
- A final report is submitted to the two sides and no longer than three
weeks later, it is circulated to all WTO members. If the panel decides
that the disputed trade measure does break a WTO agreement or an
obligation, it recommends that the measure be made to conform with WTO
rules. The panel may suggest how this could be done however these
recommendations are non-binding and it will be up to the EU to decide
how to apply these in practice in accordance with current EU regulations.
- The report becomes the Dispute Settlement Body's ruling or
recommendation within 60 days unless a consensus rejects it.

Can either side appeal the ruling?
Both sides of the dispute can appeal a panel's ruling. Appeals have to
be based on points of law such as legal interpretation -- they cannot re-
examine existing evidence or examine new issues.

Each appeal is heard by three members of a permanent seven-member
Appellate Body set up by the Dispute Settlement Body and broadly
representing the range of WTO membership. Members of the Appellate Body
have four-year terms. They have to be individuals with recognized
standing in the field of law and international trade, not affiliated
with any government.

The appeal can uphold, modify or reverse the panel's legal findings and
conclusions. Normally appeals should not last more than 60 days, with an
absolute maximum of 90 days.

The Dispute Settlement Body has to accept or reject the appeals report
within 30 days -- and rejection is only possible by consensus.

What happens if the appeal is rejected?

If the EU loses, it must follow the recommendations of the panel report
or the appeals report. It must state its intention to do so at a Dispute
Settlement Body meeting held within 30 days of the report's adoption. If
complying with the recommendation immediately proves impractical, the EU
will be given a "reasonable period of time" to do so. If it fails to act
within this period, it will be subject to retaliation measures and will
have to enter into negotiations with the US, Canada and Argentina in
order to determine mutually-acceptable compensation -- for instance,
tariff reductions in areas of particular interest to the complaining side.

And if the appeal is accepted..?

If the EU's appeal is accepted by the WTO then the panel of the Dispute
Settlement Body will be required to start a new procedure on the basis
of these claims. Like this particular ruling, this could take several years....


Understanding the WTO: settling disputes

Issue Brief on U.S.-EU Trade Dispute over Genetically Modified Crops
Released by Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology

For further information, contact:

Simon Barber
Director Plant Biotech Unit
Tel: +32 2 735 03 13
Mob: +32 476 442 420

Alina Cornea
Communications Assistant
Tel: +32 2 739 1181
Mob: +32 473 660 558
Fax: +32 2 735 4960

Avenue de l'Armée 6
B-1040 Brussels, Belgium


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(*)
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