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ealthy News Service: WTO Likely to Attempt to Force GMOs on Europe

WTO Likely to Attempt to Force GMOs on Europe

by Organic Consumers Association - 1/4/2006

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For example, WTO dispute panels refer to standards that are set by the international food regulatory authority, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). Standards for assessing the human safety of genetically engineered plants and microorganisms were adopted by Codex in July 2003. The EU will surely insist that its human safety regulations are protected against any < WTO challenge . In addition to all of Europe, labeling of GE foods is required in all of the E.U. as well as China, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Australia and several other countries. In December, a report by India’s Central Committee for Food Standards called for mandatory labeling of GE food. When India’s labeling rule is finalized, over half of the world’s population will live in countries that require GE food labeling.

In addition, 130 countries have ratified the Biosafety Protocol, the international agreement on protecting the environment from risks associated with trade in viable GE food and crops. The Protocol entered into force in September 2003, enabling countries to object to GE imports based on < precaution and/or national biosafety laws. Countries throughout Africa, Asia and South America are concerned about threats to their natural biodiversity from GE crops and have developed or are working on regulations to restrict GE imports. Regardless of the outcome of its current WTO case against Europe, the U.S. will face increasing global resistance to its GE food exports for the foreseeable future.

Background and History of the WTO Case

In October 1998, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament called on the European Commission to institute a moratorium on new approvals of imports, planting and sale of GE foods, citing increasing scientific concerns regarding the health and environmental risks of this new food technology. The Commission never instituted a moratorium, but in June 1999
five European nations declared that they would block any new E.U. approvals, and an additional six countries stated that they would also not authorize new GE crops. All eleven nations stated that they would lift their opposition once European regulations on safety and labeling were finalized. On May 13, 2003 the U.S., along with Canada and Argentina, announced it would take a complaint against Europe to the WTO for this “de facto moratorium” on new GE food approvals. The U.S.-led complaint alleged that Europe refused to approve and delayed processing applications for new GE foods, and that the E.U. failed to stop individual EU member states from banning GE products.

In April 2004, new E.U. rules for approval and labeling of GE foods went into effect and by the end of the summer three new GE approvals had been granted. Despite the lifting of any de facto moratorium, the Bush Administration refused to retract its WTO complaint, stating that "[T]he approval of a single product does not affect our WTO challenge … it does not indicate there is a consistently functioning approval process." The Administration continued to claim that Europe’s delay in new approvals was costing American farmers $300 million per year.

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Provided by Organic Consumers Association on 1/4/2006

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