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Date:

May 12, 2003

Subject:

AGBIOVIEW SPECIAL AND NEWS FLASH: US ACTION AGAINST EU IN WTO

 

AGBIOVIEW SPECIAL AND NEWS FLASH: US ACTION AGAINST EU IN WTO

MAY 13, 2003, http://www.agbioworld.org

US to confront EU on genetically modified foods

- Edward Alden in Washington and Tobias Buck in Corfu
Financial Times, May 13, 2003 http://news.ft.com/

The US is set to announce on Tuesday it will file a long-anticipated case
in the World Trade Organisation aimed at forcing the European Union to
lift its de facto moratorium on genetically modified foods, according to
administration and congressional officials.

The decision will further escalate trade tensions between the US and
Europe, just days after the EU threatened to impose sanctions by the end
of the year in a separate dispute over a $4bn subsidy for US exporters.

The US case will be joined by Argentina and Canada, which are also large
producers of GM crops, as well as by Egypt, which is set to be rewarded
next year with the launch of free-trade negotiations with the US.

The US argues that European restrictions on the approval of GM crops,
adopted under pressure from European consumers more than four years ago,
form an illegal trade barrier imposed without any evidence that the crops
endanger human health or the environment.

Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, said in January he was
prepared to bring a WTO case but was blocked by the White House over fears
that the dispute would hamper US efforts to win European support for the
war in Iraq.

But with the conflict over and the White House angry over French and
German opposition to military action, Mr Zoellick has received the green
light to press ahead.

The administration has also faced growing pressure from Congress and
agricultural lobbying groups to bring a case. Charles Grassley, chairman
of the Senate Finance Committee, has demanded the administration file a
WTO case, saying the EU ban "has contributed to the spread of
anti-biotechnology hysteria to other parts of the world."

US corn and soybean growers are among the world's largest users of
genetically modified crops, and US farmers claim they are losing as much
as $300m in annual sales to Europe.

David Byrne, EU health and consumer safety commissioner, on Monday
described the US timing as "eccentric". He said the moratorium would be
lifted by the year's end, well before the WTO can rule on the dispute.

=====

Scientists to blast Europe on genetic foods

- Gregory Tejeda, United Press International, May 13, 2003
http://www.upi.com/

Scientists from around the world are being gathered in Washington to trash
the European Union for its attempts to restrict trade on foods made from
genetically modified crops.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute will hold a forum Tuesday to address
the issue of whether European officials are wrong for enacting a
moratorium on trade in genetically engineered foods.

"The European Union's refusal to license new biotech crops is a clear and
blatant violation of its obligations under trade treaties it has signed
and ratified," said Gregory Conko, food safety director for the institute.

"More importantly, it poses a genuine threat to the health and well-being
of people throughout the developing world," Conko said.

Among those invited to participate in the forum are Nobel Peace Prize
winner Norman Borlaug of the International Center for Maize and Wheat
Research.

Others in the program include Tuskegee University plant genetics professor
C.S. Prakash, and researchers and farmers from Mexico and South Africa.

Many European officials have been reluctant to accept genetically modified
crops, claiming not enough is known about them to allow their use in the
human food supply.

That attitude is contrary to the views of many U.S. agriculture officials,
who believe use of genetics in developing crops can produce a more
bountiful food supply with the characteristics most desired by consumers.

Researchers at Tuesday's program are expected to make the point that use
of genetics in food production can also create more food for use in
struggling countries.

"Many biotech plant varieties have great potential to help alleviate
hunger and poverty in the world's poorest nations," Prakash said. "But
poor country governments will not introduce them as long as it means
almost automatically forfeiting sales to Europe, one of the most important
global markets."

Conko said the forum is part of an effort to encourage the United States
to pressure the World Trade Organization to take action against the
European Union, claiming that the moratorium on genetic food trade
illegally interferes with free trade.

-0-

House to review WTO ag negotiations

The House Agriculture Committee will hold hearings next week to review the
World Trade Organization's negotiations toward international agriculture
policies.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Robert
Zoellick are scheduled to testify before the committee when it meets May
21.

House officials want to know more about how talks are going among 121
member countries as negotiations move toward a ministerial session to be
held in Mexico in September.

Officials were unable to agree on a preliminary proposal by a March 31
deadline, and work is expected to continue on a plan concerning tariff,
domestic support and export subsidy issues.

=========
EU/USA: EU commissioner describes timing of US complaint as "eccentric"
12 May 2003
Source: just-food.com

The European Commission's food safety chief has said that any US
decision to file a WTO complaint against the EU's moratorium on
genetically modified foods would be a strange move because the EU
was taking steps to end the ban.

Commissioner David Byrne made the comments in response to a
report in the Wall Street Journal that US officials say there is now an
interagency agreement to file a biotech case within the World Trade
Organisation. The report also claimed the Bush administration may
hold off filing the complaint in order to try to drum up support from
other biotech crop producers such as Argentina, Australia and
Canada.

"The US has been considering this for some time. It seems to me to
be a strange decision to take at this time, especially when we are
taking steps with our legislation," Byrne was quoted by Reuters as
saying.

"The timing of this seems to be a little eccentric," he added.

The EU says it is already moving to end the moratorium by way of
introducing legislation on labelling and traceability of GM foods.

"Just as we are about to solve the problems that exist as they see it, it
is strange to raise the temperature. If they do it, then so be it," Byrne
added.

=======


US to press for lifting of GMO ban

www. euobserver.com

Trade representatives ROBERT ZOELLICK (left) and the EU's PASCAL LAMY
disagree over the outcome of a possible WTO ruling.

The Financial Times on Tuesday reported that the United States may be
about to up the stakes in a long running battle with the EU, over the
latter's moratorium on genetically modified foods.

Under pressure from farmers and genetics companies, the US administration
has apparently given the go ahead for its chief trade diplomat, Robert
Zoellick to ask the World Trade Organisation to rule on whether they think
the EUs "de facto ban" represents a barrier to trade.

The move comes just days after the WTO approved four billion euro worth of
EU punitive sanctions to be levied against the US as compensation for its
anti-competitive tax breaks.

Mr Zoellick has previously stated that he is in no doubt that the US has a
strong legal case. Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, however has said he
thinks the EU would win the case, although most commentators seem to back
the US.

Even so, any ruling against the EU is likely to be seen by many as a
ruling in favour of GMOs, a move unlikely to improve the already poor
reputation of the WTO and US in Europe. Trade diplomats fear a high
profile European boycott of US products could follow.

The move will do nothing to improve the atmosphere in negotiations for the
WTOs already faltering Doha Development Agenda.

The Commission is likely to be enraged as it is currently facing stiff
opposition in an EU, inter-institutional battle to end the moratorium on
GMOs.

According to the FT, the European Commissioner responsible for health and
food safety, David Byrne described the move as "eccentric" adding that the
moratorium would be lifted well before the WTO would rule.

==
Sources: U.S. to Bring Case Against EU


- Guardian (UK), May 12, 2003 11:49 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration has decided to bring a trade
case against the European Union over Europe's ban on imports of
genetically modified food, congressional officials say.

These sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that U.S. Trade
Representative Robert Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman plan
to brief key members of the House and Senate Tuesday to explain the
administration's case.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and other Republican and Democratic
lawmakers from the House and the Senate were expected to attend the
briefing.

``We have been told to expect good news on behalf of American
agriculture,'' said Pete Jeffries, a spokesman for Hastert.

Hastert has been leading an effort to get a WTO case filed for a number of
years, arguing that American farmers were losing millions of dollars in
lost export sales.

European authorities imposed a moratorium on imports of genetically
modified foods in 1998, responding to fears of European consumers about
possible health risks.

In March, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and
Sen. Max Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the Finance panel, took Zoellick
to task for the administration's delay in filing a WTO case.

The administration had delayed filing a WTO case in February, when
President Bush was trying to assemble as much support as possible for a
war against Iraq.

Grassley said the EU's four-year ban on generally modified food was
costing U.S. farmers $300 million annually in lost sales and hurting U.S.
companies that had devoted significant resources to develop genetically
modified crops.

These crops are used extensively in the United State to allow farmers to
grow more disease resistant products such as corn and soybeans.

Zoellick himself had called the EU ban ``immoral'' back in January, saying
that European countries had started to pressure other countries not to
accept genetically modified foods, including African nations suffering
with famines.

Supporters of genetically modified crops say they have been proven to be
effective in boosting crop yields, critically important for nations
struggling to feed their population. The administration contends that
there is no scientific evidence that the crops pose any health risks.

Farm products that have been genetically modified to make them more
resistant to insects or disease have been grown commercially in the United
States for years. The amount of U.S. soybean production that has been
genetically modified reached 68 percent in 2001; about 30 percent of the
U.S. corn crop is genetically modified.

A U.S. case against the EU on genetically modified foods would add to a
growing list of trade frictions between the United States and Europe.

The WTO ruled U.S. tax benefits for corporations that have been ruled
illegal; European officials said last week that if Congress does not make
progress in getting rid of the law, it would impose penalty tariffs on up
to $4 billion in U.S. exports to Europe.
Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

===============
White House mum on US biofood complaint

http://www.eubusiness.com/

OMAHA, Nebraska, May 12 (AFP) - The White House kept mum on Monday on a
reported US plan to challenge a European Union moratorium on genetically
modified foods at the World Trade Organization.

"We will not comment on rumors or speculation regarding any further course
of action," spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters travelling here with US
President George W. Bush. "We're still looking at options."

In 1999, seven members of the European Union, citing health concerns,
imposed a moratorium on authorizations of new genetically modified
organisms until the adoption of EU-wide legislation on the labelling of
such foods.

A senior US official has said the United States by mid-June at the latest
will likely register a complaint against the EU moratorium with the World
Trade Organization in Geneva.

The EU took a step toward lifting the moratorium, which US farmers say has
harmed exports, near the end of 2002 when ministers approved new
legislative measures.

"We have made it ultimately clear that by blocking imports on an
unscientific basis, the EU is interfering with the use of safe food
products that could help stem world hunger, improve nutrition and benefit
the environment," said Fleischer.

The legisalation must now be approved by the European Parliament, which is
expected to debate the issue in July.

=====

White House Press Gaggle by Ari Fleisher

- http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/20030512-1.html

Q Ari, is there any administration decision yet on filing a complaint with
the WTO on genetically modified products against the European Union?

MR. FLEISCHER: Europe has blocked approval of safe biotech food for five
years. We believe this is a violation of both WTO rules and the EU's own
laws. We have made it ultimately clear that by blocking imports on an
unscientific basis, the EU is interfering with the use of safe food
products that could help stem world hunger, improve nutrition and benefit
the environment.

The U.S. made its position clear. Administration, leaders of Congress, our
agricultural community believe the EU should lift its moratorium on
biotech products. Our goal is to resolve this issue, and we are working
with others to determine the most expeditious way to do so.

Q And so?

MR. FLEISCHER: And we will not comment on rumors or speculation regarding
any further course of action.

Q Is that you speaking?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, that's me speaking, with the help of a Blackberry that
sent me those words just minutes before I came back here. (Laughter.)

Q The operative, we will not comment, because the rest of that has been
said before.

MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. We're still looking at options.

Q Are we close to a decision? I mean, this has been hanging fire for, as
you know, months.

MR. FLEISCHER: I'd have to get a better update