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Date:

May 13, 2003

Subject:

U.S. vs. EU - Aftermath, Reaction, Praise, Criticism, Tra

 

Today in AgBioView Special: May 14, 2003 - SPECIAL: U.S. vs. EU -
Aftermath, Reaction, Praise, Criticism, Transcripts, Webcast, Spin and
Counterspin

* AgBioWorld Declaration Presented to Zoellick and Veneman
* U.S. et al. File WTO Case Against EU Moratorium on Biotech Foods and
Crops
* Time for the GM Moratorium to Go
* US Takes EU Biotech Ban to WTO
* Invasion of the Transgenics
* Biotech Warfare: A Trade War Over Genetically Modified Food
* EuropaBio Urges Rapid Resolution of EU Moratorium and WTO Complaint
* The Washington-led challenge to the European Union moratorium
* America Jumps the Gun on GM
* Deciding What's For Dinner
* U.S. Challenges Europe's Policy on Biotech Crops
* Australia to Join WTO Case on GM Approvals
* European Commission Critical of U.S. Decision to Pursue WTO Biotech Case
* "Baghdad Bob" Byrne?
* International Scientists Endorse U.S. WTO Action Against EU
* Biotech Trade Challenge a Boon for Developing World
* Trade Row New Irritant in EU-US Ties
* Forcing GMOs Down Europe's Throat
* US Steps Up Battle with Europe over GM Foods
* Europe Struggles to Put the GM Genie Back in the Bottle

'AgBioWorld Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology'
Presented to Zoellick and Veneman

- C. S. Prakash, AgBioView, May 14, 2003; http://www.agbioworld.org/

During yesterday's official event of the announcement of US's WTO case
against EU in Washington DC, I was among the four speakers invited by the
Administration to talk about the role of biotechnology in global
agriculture.

I used this opportunity to present a framed declaration of the AgBioWorld
petition (signed so far by more than 3500 scientists from 60 countries and
20 Nobel laureates) to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and
Agriculture Ann Veneman. One could see a photo of this presentation at
http://www.ustr.gov

The USDA news release site:
http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2003/05/0156.htm. carries a picture of
all speakers.

You can find the full transcript of the meeting including remarks of all
speakers at
http://usinfo.state.gov/cgi-bin/washfile/display.pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=03051401.clt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml


The webcast of the meet can be seen at http://www.ustr.gov/new/biotech.htm
(This site also has background material and fact sheets to the case).

The USTR's 'official consultation' request document can be downloaded at
http://www.ustr.gov/new/biotech-consultation_request.pdf

Sorry for the long posting today as news coverage on the issue has been
overhwhelming. Select picks appear below from dozens of stories on the
topic in practically all major media outlets..

**********************************************

U.S. and Cooperating Countries File WTO Case Against EU Moratorium on
Biotech Foods and Crops

'EU's Illegal, Non-Science based Moratorium Harmful to Agriculture and the
Developing World'

- USDA and USTR Press Release, Washington, May 13, 2003

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann
M. Veneman today announced the United States, Argentina, Canada, and Egypt
will file a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the European Union
(EU) over its illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural
biotech products. Other countries expressing support for this case by
joining it as third parties include: Australia, Chile, Colombia, El
Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay.

Joining Zoellick and Veneman at the Washington announcement were Dr. C.S.
Prakash (organizer of a pro-agricultural biotech declaration signed by 20
Nobel Laureates and over 3,200 scientists); T.J. Buthelezi, a small farmer
of biotech crops from South Africa; Dr. Diran Makinde, DVM, Ph.D., Dean of
the School of Agriculture, University of Venda for Science and Technology,
South Africa; Dr. Ariel Alvarez-Morales, Principal Scientist, Department
of Plant Genetic Engineering, Center for Research and Advanced Studies,
Irapuato, Mexico; and, representatives from countries participating in the
case.

"The EU's moratorium violates WTO rules. People around the world have been
eating biotech food for years. Biotech food helps nourish the world's
hungry population, offers tremendous opportunities for better health and
nutrition and protects the environment by reducing soil erosion and
pesticide use," said Zoellick. "We've waited patiently for five years for
the EU to follow the WTO rules and the recommendations of the European
Commission, so as to respect safety findings based on careful science. The
EU's persistent resistance to abiding by its WTO obligations has
perpetuated a trade barrier unwarranted by the EC's own scientific
analysis, which impedes the global use of a technology that could be of
great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world."

"With this case, we are fighting for the interests of American
agriculture. This case is about playing by the rules negotiated in good
faith. The European Union has failed to comply with its WTO obligations,"
said Veneman. "Biotechnology is helping farmers increase yields, lower
pesticide use, improve soil conservation and water pollution and help
reduce hunger and poverty around the world.

Farmers here and elsewhere must be assured that their crops won't be
unfairly rejected simply because they were produced using biotechnology.
The EU actions threaten to deny the full development of a technology that
holds enormous potential benefits to both producers and consumers
worldwide, while also providing a very significant means to combat hunger
and malnutrition that afflict hundreds of millions of people across the
developing world."

"The U.S. and the EU have a large and important economic relationship, and
disputes such as this, while very important, make up only one part of that
relationship. The United States will continue to work with the EU to
manage this and other disputes in an appropriate way, and we look forward
to advancing our shared objectives in the Doha global trade negotiations
and other fora," Zoellick added.

The WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) recognizes
that countries are entitled to regulate crops and food products to protect
health and the environment. The WTO SPS agreement requires, however, that
members have "sufficient scientific evidence" for such measures, and that
they operate their approval procedures without "undue delay." Otherwise,
there is a risk countries may without justification use such regulations
to thwart trade in safe, wholesome, and nutritious products.

Before 1999, the EU approved nine agriculture biotech products for
planting or import. It then suspended consideration of all new
applications for approval, and has offered no scientific evidence for this
moratorium on new approvals. As EU Environment Commissioner Margot
Wallstrom said almost three years ago (July 13, 2000): "We have already
waited too long to act. The moratorium is illegal and not justified...the
value of biotechnology is poorly appreciated in Europe."

Agricultural biotechnology is a continuation of the long tradition of
agricultural innovation that has provided the basis for rising prosperity
for the past millennium. Humankind has historically progressed in boosting
agricultural productivity, quality and choices by harnessing science to
develop new forms of crops.

More than 145 million acres (58 million hectares) of biotech crops were
grown in the world in 2002 (check figure). Worldwide, about 45% of soy,
11% of corn, 20% of cotton and 11% of rapeseed are biotech crops. In the
United States, 75% of soy, 34% of corn and 71% of cotton are biotech
crops.

Numerous organizations, researchers and scientists have determined that
biotech foods pose no threat to humans or the environment. Examples
include the French Academy of Medicine and Pharmacy, and the French
Academy of Sciences, the 3,200 scientists who cosponsored a declaration on
biotech foods and numerous scientific studies including a joint study
conducted by the seven national academies of science (the National
Academies of Science of the United States, Brazil, China, India, and
Mexico, plus the Royal Society of London and the Third World Academy of
Sciences).

Background: In October 1998, the EU stopped approving any new agriculture
biotech products for planting or import. This moratorium had no effect on
any previously-approved products, such as corn and soy, which are still
used and are available in member countries, but it froze the approval
process in the EU. No biotech product has ever been rejected for approval
in the EU.

Since the late 1990's, the EU has pursued policies that undermine
agricultural biotechnology and trade in biotech foods. First, six member
states (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Greece & Luxemburg) banned
modified crops approved by the EU, and the Commission refused to challenge
the illegal bans. In 1998, member states began blocking all new biotech
applications. This approval moratorium is causing a growing portion of
U.S. agricultural exports to be excluded from EU markets and unfairly
casting concerns about biotech products around the world, particularly in
developing countries.

The first step in a WTO dispute, which the United States and other
countries are taking today, is to request and conduct consultations in the
next 60 days. WTO procedures are designed to encourage parties to resolve
their differences. If at the end of the 60 days, no resolution has been
achieved, then the U.S. and the cooperating countries may seek the
formation of a dispute settlement panel to hear arguments. Dispute
settlement procedures, including appeal, typically take a total of 18
months.
#
Fact sheets and other information are available at www.ustr.gov,
www.usda.gov. USDA News oc.news@usda.gov 202 720-9035

**********************************************

Time for the GM Moratorium to Go

- Gregory Conko and C.S. Prakash, Wall Street Journal (Europe), May 13,
2003 http://online.wsj.com/

After months of anticipation, the U.S. government is expected to file a
formal complaint today with the World Trade Organization against the
European Union's five-year moratorium on new genetically modified crop
varieties.

The move will undoubtedly be ridiculed as a cynical attempt by Americans
to force GM products down the throats of skeptical Europeans. Yet, while
the U.S. is surely motivated by a parochial desire to aid American
farmers, filing such a complaint will have benefits far beyond U.S.
borders. The biggest beneficiaries are sure to be resource-poor farmers in
less developed countries.

By now, many readers will be familiar with the story of Zambian President
Levy Mwanawasa who, last autumn, rejected some 23,000 metric tons of food
aid in the midst of a two-year-long drought that threatened the lives of
over two million Zambians.

President Mwanawasa's public explanation was that the GM maize from the
United States was "poison." But, other Zambian government officials
conceded that the bigger concern was for future corn exports to the EU
market. If even a little of the food aid were diverted to seed stock, it
could threaten the exportability of the entire Zambian maize crop for many
years to come.

Zambia is not unique. European GM restrictions have had other, similar,
consequences throughout the developing world. Thai government officials
have been warned by European importers not to authorize any GM rice
varieties. Uganda has stopped research on GM bananas and postponed their
introduction indefinitely. Argentina has limited its approvals to two GM
crop varieties that are already permitted in European markets. Even China,
which has spent hundreds of millions of euros funding advanced
biotechnology research, has refused to authorize any new GM food crops
since the moratorium began.

Critics often deride GM crops with built-in pest, weed, and disease
resistance as helpful only for wealthy farmers in industrialized nations,
but developing countries could benefit tremendously from the adoption of
GM crops.

As much as 40% of conventional crop productivity in Africa and Asia is
lost to insect pests, weeds, and plant diseases. But many of the same GM
crops available in North America are already helping poor farmers in South
Africa, India, China, and the Philippines combat often-voracious insects
while reducing the amount of insecticides or eliminating them altogether.
Indeed, studies of South African and Chinese cotton growers suggest that
small farmers actually achieve disproportionately higher benefits from GM
relative to larger competitors, because expensive machinery can at times
be made obsolete.

What's more, GM crops with added nutritional benefits -- such as the
much-touted golden rice and high-protein sweet potatoes -- are likely to
be available within a few years.

Still, the EU moratorium persists after five long years despite copious
evidence that genetic modification does not pose any risks that aren't
also present in other crop-breeding methods. A review of 81 separate
research projects conducted over 15 years and funded exclusively by the EU
found that GM crops and foods are just as safe for the environment and for
human consumption as conventional crops, and in some cases are even safer
because the genetic changes in the plants are much more precise.

Dozens of scientific organizations, including the U.N.'s Food and
Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, have studied
GM techniques and given them a clean bill of health. And in December, the
French Academies of Medicine and Science added their names to that growing
list and called for an end to the moratorium.

Some will claim that the EU is already set to end the moratorium just as
soon as its new approval regulations and labeling and traceability rules
are implemented by member nations. Why risk a consumer backlash at a time
when the moratorium's end is within sight? But this naÔve assertion
overlooks four important facts.

First, several EU members have already missed the first deadline for
implementing the new GM rules, and debates still rage over the coexistence
of GM, conventional, and organic crops. How close are they really to
ending the moratorium?

Second, even if implementation is ultimately completed, what is to prevent
individual members from ignoring the EU-wide rules? The European
Commission has been famously impotent in pressing Austria, Luxembourg, and
Italy to accept GM products that have already been approved by the EU.

Third, the new GM labeling and traceability rules are hardly an
improvement on the current situation. Industrialized countries like the
United States, Canada, and Australia may be able to comply. But for poor
developing countries, the added cost and complexity of the labeling and
traceability rules would only replace a de jure ban with a de facto one,
shutting them out of the GM revolution for good.

Fourth, special regulations based solely on the process used in a
product's creation are just as illegal as a ban under the terms of
international treaties signed and ratified by the EU. So, the new GM rules
don't even serve to bring the EU into WTO compliance. Nor are they needed,
since voluntarily labeled non-GM foods can be found in almost every shop
in Western Europe, giving consumers choice.

Interestingly, studies of consumer behavior show that, where labeled GM
foods and labeled non-GM foods are available, even most European consumers
seem to be indifferent to the "genetic status" of the goods they purchase.
Indeed, the best possible scenario for all involved would be to end the
moratorium immediately and genuinely expand consumers' ability to choose.

The EU's blatant flaunting of scientific assessments is why a WTO
challenge is likely to succeed. And the fact that less developed countries
are most likely to benefit is why the United States should file it. A
decision by the 140-member World Trade Organization would send an
important signal from the international community that the EU's groundless
and genuinely harmful biotechnology restrictions must go.
--
Mr. Conko is director of food safety policy with the Competitive
Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. Mr. Prakash is professor of plant
genetics at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The authors are also
co-founders of the nonprofit AgBioWorld Foundation.

**********************************************

US Takes EU Biotech Ban to WTO

- Cheryl Rainford, Agriculture.com, May 13, 2003

The US, Argentina, Canada, and Egypt will file a World Trade Organization
(WTO) case against the European Union (EU) over its illegal five-year
moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products, US Trade
Representative Robert Zoellick and Ag Secretary Ann Veneman announced
today. At least nine other countries have expressed support and joined the
case as third parties. But EU officials maintain the ban is less about
trade and more about giving consumers the assurances they want about food
safety.

"The EU's moratorium violates WTO rules," said Zoellick. "We've waited
patiently for five years for the EU to follow the WTO rules and the
recommendations of the European Commission (EC), so as to respect safety
findings based on careful science.

"The EU's persistent resistance to abiding by its WTO obligations has
perpetuated a trade barrier unwarranted by the EC's own scientific
analysis, which impedes the global use of a technology that could be of
great benefit to farmers and consumers around the world," said Zoellick.

"The EU actions threaten to deny the full development of a technology that
holds enormous potential benefits to both producers and consumers
worldwide, while also providing a very significant means to combat hunger
and malnutrition that afflict hundreds of millions of people across the
developing world," Veneman said.

CropLife America today commended the Bush administration's decision and
the strong message they say it will send to the EU and other countries in
Asia, Africa and Latin America. "The US has been patient, but
unsuccessful, in getting the EU to lift its moratorium, which has no
scientific foundation," said Jay J. Vroom, president, CropLife America.
"Today's action, which begins with WTO consultations, is a justified and
long-overdue effort. The United States has a strong case against the EU."

Isi Siddiqui, CropLife America's vice president for biotechnology and
trade, added, "EU's illegal moratorium has had a negative ripple effect of
creeping regulations and non-science-based decisions, which have resulted
in denying food to starving people."

Before 1999, the EU approved nine agriculture biotech products for
planting or import. It then suspended consideration of all new
applications for approval, and has offered no scientific evidence for this
moratorium on new approvals. US officials say this violates WTO rules.

The European Commission released a statement today calling the decision
"legally unwarranted, economically unfounded and politically unhelpful."
Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, in a statement today said, "The EU's
regulatory system for GMOs authorisation is in line with WTO rules: it is
clear, transparent and non-discriminatory. There is therefore no issue
that the WTO needs to examine.

"The US claim that there is a so-called 'moratorium' but the fact is that
the EU has authorised GM varieties in the past and is currently processing
applications. So what is the real US motive in bringing a case?" he asked.

Is it a trade barrier or a consumer acceptance issue?
Many organizations, researchers and scientists have determined that
biotech foods pose no threat to humans or the environment. Examples
include the French Academy of Medicine and Pharmacy, and the French
Academy of Sciences, the 3,200 scientists who cosponsored a declaration on
biotech foods.

But officials in the EU say the moratorium isn't an intentional trade
barrier, though it has trade implications. It is more based on a mistrust
of science by consumers, they say. When asked how long it would be before
scientists could gain such trust, France's Agriculture Minister Sylvain
Lambert recently told Agriculture Online it was difficult to say.
"Individuals are far removed from the biotech process," he said at a
roundtable discussion with leaders of US agricultural trade and commodity
groups hosted by Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture Online
earlier this month.

Trying to get consumers to unde r stand the issues that surround genetic
engineering is not like trying to educate them about air bags in
automobiles, he said. "It is far away and hard to understand." The
question of how much to rely on science is also a "huge cultural problem"
in Europe, Lambert said. "What is the meaning of science when scientists
can be bought?" he asked. "Europeans question the reliability of science
and the confidence you can put in progress," he said. "Our perception of
risk is very different."

The EU strategy for increasing consumer acceptance so far has been a
narrow path focusing on creating an approval system, so con s umers will
perceive the products as safe to consume, then to work on transparency and
traceability. Lambert calls this three pronged approach a "critical mass
of guarantees for consumers." Lambert also noted the problem is not that
French farmers and scientists are reluctant to embrace biotechnology.
Farmers do, however, want some assurance there will be a market for their
product if they grow biotech crops, he said..

Improving consumer confidence in the process is the "commonsense approach"
toward making progress, Lambert said. "I am not pessimistic for that. I
just don't know how many years it will take."

Noting that the Corn Growers intended to make an issue of the dispute with
the WTO, Tade Sullivan, Director of Public Affairs for the Iow a Corn
Growers Association, told the Successful Farming roundtable participants
he thought regardless, these ultimately come down to political issues.
"It's hard to extract it from trade discussions," he said.

EU Commissioner for the Environment Margot Wallstrom today said the US
decision to take the dispute to the WTO was "unhelpful." In the meantime,
the Commission strongly believes Europe should move ahead with completing
legislation on traceability and labelling and on food and feed, currently
before the European Parliament. "We should not be deflected or distracted
from purs uing the right polic y for the EU," she said.

Some estimates are that the moratorium has cost US farmers about $300
million a year in lost exports to Europe, mostly of corn. Dispute
settlement procedures, including appeal, typically take a total of 18
months, USDA said. Other countries expressing support and joining the case
as third parties include: Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador,
Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay.

**********************************************

Invasion of the Transgenics

- The Economist, economist.com, May 14, 2003

'The American government and other supporters of genetically modified
crops are winning their battles against the opponents of so-called
"Frankenfoods" '

Under pressure from Congress, farmers and business leaders to launch an
attack on various forms of disguised trade protectionism, the American
government announced on Tuesday May 14th (sic) that it was making a formal
complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the European Union’s
moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods, introduced in 1998.
American farmers claim the ban costs them hundreds of millions of dollars
a year in lost exports to Europe, though several GM foodstuffs, such as
soya, were approved before the moratorium began, and thus continue being
consumed in the EU.

Confusingly, the European Commission is itself trying to get member
governments to lift the moratorium and replace it with a requirement
simply to label food containing GM products and to enable it to be traced
back to its source. Argentina, Canada and Egypt are joining in with
America in the WTO case, and various other countries, from Peru to New
Zealand, are also backing it.

The Office of the US Trade Representative has issued a statement on its
complaint to the WTO. The US Department of Agriculture has posted
factsheets to support the complaint, and conducts research on the use of
agricultural biotechnology. The EU publishes information on its policies
on GM foods and trade relations. See also the UN's Food and Agriculture
Organisation and the British government's public debate on GM crops. The
ISAAA promotes biotechnological advances in crop-growing to developing
countries, and provides GM crop statistics.

America’s attack on the GM ban came a few days after one of the world’s
most eminent scientific bodies--Britain’s Royal Society--attacked
environmental groups for continuing to claim, without any evidence, that
what they call 'Frankenfoods'are a health risk. A report by the Royal
Society in February concluded that there was no credible evidence of any
risk to health from eating GM food. And, as America’s trade
representative, Robert Zoellick, pointed out on launching the WTO case,
many other notable scientific bodies around the world have also declared
GM products safe to eat.

Though polls suggest many consumers around the world are still nervous,
farmers are voting with their ploughs and rushing to plant GM crops (see
chart). A United Nations report in March said about half of the soybeans
and a fifth of the cotton grown worldwide is now genetically modified.
Why? Because growing GM crops can greatly reduce farmers' losses to
insects and weeds and thus cut the cost (and the environmental damage) of
spraying them with insecticide and weedkiller. Further 'transgenic' crops
(ie, plants that have had genes from other species introduced) are being
developed that yield higher levels of protein or vitamins, and thus offer
the prospect of cutting malnutrition in poor countries.

Mr Zoellick has been itching to take the European Union (EU) to the WTO
for months, but the Bush administration decided to hold back while it made
its unsuccessful bid to get broad backing from EU countries for the war in
Iraq. Its decision to take up the case now comes a week after the EU got
permission from the WTO to apply up to $4 billion in trade sanctions
against America in a separate dispute, over the tax breaks that America
gives to its exporters. The EU has still failed to lift a ban, declared
illegal by the WTO six years ago, on American and Canadian beef from
cattle treated with growth hormones. American farmers and food-processing
companies are furious that what they see as bogus health and safety
concerns are being used to keep their products out of European and other
markets worldwide.

European officials called America’s decision to take the GM food ban to
the WTO "eccentric", since it is expected to be lifted later this year and
replaced with a new system of labelling and tracking. American exporters
shouldn’t find it too difficult to comply with the new European rules. But
some poorer countries, such as India (which is just harvesting its first
crop of genetically modified cotton), are worried that their farmers will
be shut out of European markets because they will not have the means to
comply. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation wants to see
a worldwide standard for labelling and tracking, but that appears to be a
long way off. Thailand’s new law on labelling GM food, introduced on May
11th, has been criticised as inadequate because it only applies to the
three main ingredients in any food item. Brazil, on the other hand, is
planning very strict labelling requirements. This has drawn protests from
its neighbour and big trade partner, Argentina, which is an ardent backer
of GM crops and has no labelling requirements at all.

European Commission officials have been trying to scare the Bush
administration off the idea of taking the EU moratorium to the WTO, saying
that it might backfire and trigger a boycott of American foods by European
consumers. Indeed, consumers’ reactions are hard to predict. Some
governments are trying to keep GM plants out of their country, in the
belief that there will be a long-term market for produce from guaranteed
GM-free sources. Others are worried that unless they encourage the
adoption of more productive GM crops, other countries will steal a march
on them. Others still are concerned that dabbling with GM food will lead
to their being locked out of export markets. Last year, in the midst of a
terrible drought, Zambia rejected a shipment of GM maize from America, on
the grounds that this could risk the country’s entire maize crop being
banned by the EU.

In some countries, such as the Philippines, the government is keen to push
ahead with the adoption of GM crops in order to safeguard the
competitiveness of the agricultural sector, but faces public resistance.
In other cases, there are disagreements between various levels of
government: Australia’s federal government is pro-GM and backing America's
drive to overturn the EU ban, but the state government of Victoria has
just banned the growing of GM canola. Britain’s government has been
sitting on the fence: it is supposed to decide this year whether to allow
the planting of GM crops but has decided to test the waters by launching a
nationwide debate, including public meetings and a website.

Since no plausible evidence has yet emerged of risks to human health from
eating GM food, the environmentalists’ main remaining objection is that GM
plants may cross-pollinate others, spreading their alien genes to other
species with unpredictable environmental effects. Some evidence has
emerged suggesting this could happen, though a breakthrough announced this
month by a group of Canadian scientists may overcome the problem: they
have developed a sort of agricultural contraceptive, in which GM plants
that pollinate their non-GM relatives produce only sterile offspring. The
initial research was carried out on GM tobacco plants but, if it proves
applicable to other species, it may make GM crops’ worldwide spread
unstoppable.

**********************************************

Biotech Warfare: A Trade War Over Genetically Modified Food

- Ronald Bailey, May 14, 2003, www.reason.org

The United States is about to lob its first salvo in a new trade war with
the European Union (EU). Yesterday United States Trade Representative
Robert Zoellick and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced that
the U.S. is filing a case at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against
the EU's five-year moratorium on importing foods made from genetically
modified (GM) crops.

The U.S. is joined in the suit by Canada, Argentina, and Egypt, who also
want to export products made from plant biotechnology into Europe. The
Bush administration has been under increasingly heavy pressure from
members of Congress to file a WTO case against the EU, since the
moratorium is costing U.S. farmers $300 million in export business each
year.

The WTO will surely side with the United States against the EU moratorium,
since it is supposed to make its decisions under the Sanitary and
Phytosanitary Agreement about the appropriateness of health and
environmental regulations "based on scientific principles." Such
regulations should not be, the rules say, "maintained without sufficient
scientific evidence." The EU's moratorium is not based on any scientific
evidence that GM crops cause health or environmental problems.

"The EU, for political reasons, has steadfastly refused to follow the
advice of their own scientific review committees that have always found
that the genetically modified crops are safe and do not pose significant
environmental risks," says Val Giddings, vice president for food and
agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). "That is
impermissible under the rules of the WTO."

Giddings is right. Even EU scientific societies like the French Academy of
Sciences say that the current criticisms against plant biotechnology are
scientifically "unfounded." Last week, Britain's Royal Society reiterated
this point and declared "the potential for GM ingredients to reduce the
nutritional quality of foods or to cause allergic reactions is in
principle no different to that for non-GM ingredients. Furthermore, there
is no credible evidence that human health can be damaged by eating DNA
sequences created by the genetic modification of foodstuff ingredients."

The Royal Society's vice president and biological secretary, Professor
Patrick Bateson, also added, "It is disappointing to find a group like
Greenpeace stating on its website that 'the risks are enormous and the
consequences potentially catastrophic,' without offering any solid reasons
to support such a claim." Disappointing perhaps, but Greenpeace does need
a new scare campaign with which to raise money.

EU Health Commissioner David Byrne complained last week that filing a WTO
case now would be "eccentric" since the EU is about to adopt regulations
that would lift its GM moratorium. Why doesn't the U.S. just wait for the
new regulations? But the new plant biotechnology regulations are merely a
moratorium by other means. The new EU regulations would require labeling
of all foods containing 1 percent or more ingredients from GM foods. The
new regulations would also require "dirt to fork" traceability of foods
incorporating ingredients made from GM crops.

For example, a cookie made with corn syrup from pest-resistant maize would
have to be labeled as containing GM ingredients even though it contains no
modified genes at all, just plain old sugars like glucose, dextrose, and
maltose. Corn syrup may be bad for your waistline, but genetic engineering
doesn't make it any worse or better. In the meantime, the entire supply
chain would have to keep and maintain expensive records of exactly where
each batch of glucose came from.

However, despite the good news that the U.S. is finally challenging the
EU's crop biotech ban, the BIO's Giddings notes, "Leaving the directives
on traceability and labeling as they are would make lifting the moratorium
moot. In fact, implementing the traceability and labeling directives is an
even more effective way of killing trade in biotech food and crops than
the moratorium itself."

Even if the U.S. wins at the WTO, it could still lose. First, the WTO
could merely authorize the United States to impose countervailing duties
on various European products to punish the EU for violating WTO rules.
This already happened in 1999 when the WTO ruled against an EU ban on the
import of American beef that had been treated with growth hormone. The WTO
allowed the U.S. to impose $116 million in countervailing duties as
damages on various European products. The growth hormone case gives an
indication of how the EU is likely to react to a WTO ruling against them
on GM crops—the EU may just accept the countervailing duties and continue
to block biotech crop products.

Second, European politicians and bureaucrats could whip up more
anti-American fervor by telling their citizens that American corporations
are trying to force GM crops down their throats and the throats of their
children. European consumers might react by boycotting American imports.
After all some in the U.S. boycotted French products to protest that
country's stand on the Iraq War.

And third, a WTO ruling favorable to the U.S. could imperil the Doha Round
of WTO trade negotiations in which the U.S. is trying to persuade the EU
to lower absurdly high agricultural subsidies. These subsidies are more
than just economically stupid; they are a moral offense. It's criminal
that every cow in Europe gets a subsidy of $2.20 a day—more than the daily
income of almost two billion of the world's citizens. The developed
countries pay out over $300 billion in agricultural subsidies annually,
undermining the ability of poor farmers in the developing countries to
compete. The risk is that wily European politicians and bureaucrats will
use a bio trade war with the U.S. as an excuse to derail the Doha Round.

Finally, the EU could claim that it has lifted its moratorium and will
import biotech foods under its new regulations. As we've seen, those
regulations amount to another moratorium that the U.S. will have to
challenge before the WTO later.

But if the U.S. doesn't actually use the WTO trade adjudication mechanisms
to prevent countries from erecting non-tariff trade barriers like the EU's
biotech ban, then why have a WTO at all? The U.S. has been patient with
the EU on this issue. It's time the agency filed the case.
--
Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent, is the editor of Global
Warming and Other Eco Myths (Prima Publishing) and Earth Report 2000:
Revisiting the True State of the Planet(McGraw-Hill).

**********************************************

EuropaBio Urges Rapid Resolution of EU Moratorium and WTO Complaint

- Europabio.org, Brussels, May 13, 2002

EuropaBio (1) notes that four countries the United States, Canada, Egypt
and Argentina have filed a WTO case (2) over the European Union's (EU)
moratorium on approving agricultural biotechnology products. Nine other
countries have joined as third parties in support of the case: Australia,
Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and
Uruguay. While it would have been preferable to resolve this issue without
WTO action, the EU biotech industry understands the frustration of the
EU's trading partners with some Member States which continue to look for
justifications not to permit the importation of safe products of GM
technology.

The EU biotech industry is also frustrated with the delays in implementing
EU rules however there is at least some progress being made. The
regulatory framework dealing with GM technology in the EU was bolstered
when Directive 2001/18 came into force in October of 2002, updating the
regulatory process of authorising and monitoring of GMOs but it is
inevitable that it will take some months before dossiers for approval are
reviewed and voted on. The forthcoming legislation on food, feed,
traceability and labelling is expected to be completed in a matter of
months and specifically aims to meet the moratorium countries'
requirements.

The EU biotechnology industry has worked constructively with the EU
institutions to develop a transparent and workable regulatory system for
the EU that can provide European citizens with confidence in approved
products. The system provides transparent and strict rules for GM products
for use in food, feed, and in agricultural production.

EuropaBio looks forward to an amicable resolution of the WTO consultation
based on the willingness of the Commission, the Parliament, and the Member
States to expedite finalisation of the EU legislative package and the
approval of new products. The industry requires workable legislation which
gives choice to all those in the food chain from grower to final consumer.

EuropaBio believes that both farmers and consumers should have the right
to choose what crops they want to grow and which products they want to
buy. The de facto moratorium by some Member States reduces the choices of
other Member States who wish to use this technology. Governments need to
implement legislation effectively so as not to disadvantage European
farmers. This technology is being used by more than 5 million farmers
worldwide attesting to the technology's ability to respond to a need and
repeat purchases show that the technology meets farmer expectations.

Furthermore, the failure to approve products in Europe for the last five
years affects the development of this technology outside the EU, including
in developing countries, and impacts on the choices that these countries
are making as regards agricultural production and food security.

Plant biotechnology is one of the most important innovations in
agriculture in recent years, it can help farmers remain competitive and
provide the countryside with environmental benefits. If this technology is
cut off from farmers it will put them at a disadvantage compared to other
farmers in China, US, Canada, Argentina and many other parts of the world.
Companies and public institutes need a positive and dynamic climate to
encourage investment in the agricultural biotechnology sector, which will
help create growth and jobs, and reverse the downward trend in plant
biotechnology research in Europe.

(1) www.europabio.org
(2) USTR Press release from the Office of the US Trade Representative,
United States Department of Agriculture
http://www.ustr.gov/releases/2003/05/03-31.pdf

**********************************************

The Washington-led challenge to the European Union moratorium will take
trade disputes into untested areas, further straining the legitimacy of
the World Trade Organisation

- Financial Times (London), May 14, 2003

After years of sabre-rattlingand diplomatic entreaties, US patience with
the European Union's opposition to genetically modified foods has snapped.
Yesterday, Washington threw down the gauntlet by launching a challenge in
the World Trade Organisation to the four-year-old de facto EU moratorium
on authorising GM crops.

The move, which follows months of internal wrangling in President George
W. Bush's administration, sets the scene for potentially the most
contentious in a long line of US-EU trade confrontations. Even more
seriously, it comes as both sides struggle to prevent severe tensions over
the Iraq war infecting bilateral economic relations.

As well as making that task harder, yesterday's decision is a calculated
gamble that is not assured of success. It may even backfire. Although the
US is confident of victory in the WTO, experts on international trade law
are divided over its chances. Even if it won, it is far from sure that the
EU would respond by opening its market.

Brussels has warned US officials repeatedly that escalating the dispute
could frustrate that objective by creating an even stronger European
political and consumer backlash against GM foods. That could halt in its
tracks current EU moves aimed at lifting the moratorium by the end of the
year.

David Byrne, EU health and safety commissioner, expressed surprise at the
timing of the US move, calling it "eccentric". He pointed out that, if all
went to plan, the moratorium would have ended before the WTO had decided
on a US case.

Nonetheless, the prospect of being called on to adjudicate in such a
politically sensitive conflict between the world's two economic
superpowers is sending shivers through the WTO. The organisation is
already under fire because of past decisions in trade disputes that
critics, including members of the US Congress and activist groups, say
trample on national sovereignty.

Trade officials fear that trying to lay down the law - in an area where
global rules are far from clear - would expose the organisation to still
fiercer attacks that could undermine its authority. "Whichever way a case
on GMOs went, the WTO would lose," says one. Despite those risks, Mr
Bush's administration has decided to press ahead. It has threatened since
October to bring a WTO case; but the White House blocked action in
January, fearing it would complicate efforts to win European support for
the war in Iraq.

Now, after having mobilised support from powerful US farm lobbies, which
had not pressed it at the outset to launch a WTO challenge, it faces
growing pressure from their representatives in Congress to act. The
economic stakes for the US are huge. Its biotechnology companies have
invested heavily to develop genetically modified strains, which are now
used to grow 75 per cent of the soyabean crops, 71 per cent of the cotton
and almost 34 per cent of the maize that the country produces.

But in US eyes, the dispute is about more than just GM food exports to the
EU. Officials say that even if the European market stays closed, they aim
to send a clear signal to other countries not to impose similar
restrictions. Similar thinking inspired a successful US WTO challenge in
the late 1990s to the EU's long-standing ban on sales of hormone-treated
beef. Even though the EU has not removed its ban, no other WTO member has
imposed one.

US fears rose last October when several drought-stricken African countries
rejected American food aid shipments containing GM crops. They said they
were worried that seeds from the shipments would contaminate their own
crops, making it harder to export them to the EU. Robert Zoellick, US
trade representative, who has denounced the EU moratorium as "immoral" and
"Luddite", said yesterday it had "sent a devastating signal to developing
countries that stand to benefit most" from the new technologies.

Washington aims to head off accusations that it is using WTO rules to
foist GM crops on reluctant countries by lining up 12 other governments in
support of its case. As well as exporters of GM foods, such as Argentina,
Australia and Canada, they include developing nations such as Colombia,
Egypt, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico.

The US also wants to send another, more wide-ranging, message to Brussels.
It views the GM moratorium not as an isolated case but as symptomatic of a
growing EU tendency to use health and safety as a pretext for regulations
that create trade barriers. Another example is the European Commission's
plan for testing and registration of as many as 30,000 chemicals that it
says could pose safety risks. The proposal has been attacked by US
companies - and many European ones - as prohibitively costly and
trade-restrictive.

"If we don't draw the line here, it gives the impression that we are going
to allow Europe to regulate its market to our disadvantage," says Nao
Matsukata, until recently a top adviser to Mr Zoellick.

In US eyes, the same flawed approach underlies the chemicals plan and the
moratorium on GM crops. In both cases, Washington says, the EU has acted
on the assumption that products may pose risks, without producing any
evidence that they do. That "precautionary" approach contrasts with
regulation by agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration, which
claim to base their decisions on "sound science". Washington cites as
proof of their wisdom that most American consumers, unlike their European
counterparts, have few qualms about GM food.

European officials respond that regulatory models are as much about
popular values and political cultures as about regulators' methods. They
point out that in Europe, unlike the US, public confidence has been badly
dented by a succession of food scares and vigorous campaigning by
environmental and consumer groups against GM foods.

Those developments led a group of EU member governments in October 1998 to
block further GM product authorisations until the EU tightened up its
existing regulations. The upshot was two new legislative proposals: one
requiring the labelling and traceability of GM foods; the other setting
the threshold above which the presence of GM products in food and animal
feed must be advertised on packaging.

The proposals are now in their second reading by the European parliament.
If all goes well, Brussels hopes EU members will give them final approval
and lift by autumn their moratorium on new GM products, 19 of which are
already awaiting authorisation. An adviser to Mr Byrne yesterday put at
70-30 the odds on the legislation's being passed. he US has not set out
its precise legal arguments and may not do so for another two months.
Until it does, legal experts say it is hard to assess the strength of its
case. But some believe Washington is far from assured of a clear-cut
victory.

"The US has a plausible case but it involves a lot of uncertainties. From
what I know now, it is impossible to say what will come out," says John
Jackson, a professor at Washington's Georgetown University and a leading
authority on international trade law, who helped design the WTO's disputes
procedures.

Predicting the outcome is all the harder because WTO rules on food safety
are sketchy and largely untested. They require trade restrictions to be
backed by a scientific risk assessment but allow governments to decide
what level of risk is acceptable. They also permit temporary precautionary
bans, though the US says the 4 1/2-year moratorium is much too long to
qualify.

The US may also decide to challenge the EU's two proposed regulations on
GM products, once they become law. It objects that they will adversely
affect trade because they are costly, unworkably bureaucratic and
restrictive.

However, Prof Jackson says that, to mount an effective challenge, the US
would need to show that GM foods are "like products", comparable with
other foods. Past experience has shown that to be a task of almost
theological complexity that has often divided trade experts. Prof Jackson
says it is unreasonable to expect the WTO's disputes mechanisms to settle
a dispute that should really be tackled by negotiating new rules. "The
problem is that the lawmaking side of the WTO is paralysed, so governments
resort to litigation. But that is risky," he says.

Washington may, of course, believe that by threatening legal action, it
will eventually force the EU to seek a resolution at the bargaining table.
But that could take years and would further tax already stretched US
patience. The more likely outcome is that this US-EU dispute will end up
being fought over by lawyers at the WTO's Geneva headquarters, further
testing their already strained relations and creating political
reverberations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Whether either side will be able to claim decisive and clear-cut victory
is quite another matter. The European Union moratorium on genetically
modified crops has frustrated US farmers and the country's biotechnology
industry. Exports totalling an estimated Dollars 300m are being lost each
year.

Elsewhere, the story is different. Globally, the adoption of GM crops
continues to grow, despite the European boycott. Total worldwide
cultivation rose by 12 per cent in 2002. More than a fifth of the world's
total crop area for soyabeans, maize, canola oilseed and cotton is now
devoted to biotech varieties. This figure is likely to keep rising.
Monsanto, the US biotech company, hopes to launch in 2008 a GM variety of
wheat, one of the world's main staples.

Although the US, Argentina, Canada and China remain the largest producers,
the technology is catching on in the developing world faster than anywhere
else. India, Colombia, Honduras and the Philippines embraced biotech crops
last year.

Crucially, Brazil, one of the largest growers of soya beans and the main
source of non-GM produce for Europe, may well approve the technology. The
impact of such a switch could restrict supplies of non-GM soya demanded by
European consumers.

However, the effects of the EU boycott have been felt elsewhere, as other
countries shy away from adopting the technology for fear of losing
valuable export markets in Europe. Last year, Zambia earned the wrath of
Washington by refusing to accept GM food aid despite widespread starvation
in the region. China and India, both producers of GM crops, have also
cited concerns over access to EU markets - a move that has been seen by
some in the biotech industry as a protectionist measure to enable those
countries to build up their own national capacity.

However, the opposition in the European public that has fuelled the
moratorium continues. According to Eurobarometer, the EU market research
group, public opinion remains largely opposed to the technology. There are
some signs that opposition is softening but sentiments remain strong.

Forty-four per cent of people polled by Eurobarometer last year felt that
genetically modified foods were less safe than other foods - down 9 per
cent from 2001. This compares with the 28 per cent who have confidence in
the safety of GM food and 27 per cent who say they do not know.

Many in biotech industry accept that this will not change rapidly. They
argue that their best hope for a shift in consumer sentiment would be the
appearance of GM crops with clear consumer benefits - foods that have
enhanced flavours or nutritional content, or that offer medical benefits.
But these products are still years away from market.

Among scientists and policymakers, the arguments continue to rage.
Scientific research into the health and environmental impacts of GM crops
has yet to show conclusive evidence of harm. However, gaps in knowledge
remain, particularly over long-term risks. The arguments therefore centre
on evaluating the scale of such risks and the need for long-term
monitoring.

To some, enough research has already been done to justify the technology's
widespread commercial application. Roger Beachy, president of the Donald
Danforth Plant Science Centre in St Louis, Missouri, says: "There is
consensus among my colleagues that the current crops are as safe to eat
and safe for the environment as their parents."

To others, scientists' understanding of how genes work in both plants and
humans remains incomplete. Sue Mayer of Genewatch, a British pressure
group critical of biotech, argues that molecular biologists and ecologists
can draw different conclusions from the same data.

"This is not an area where you would expect people to drop dead in the
streets or birds suddenly to fall out of the sky. Long-term monitoring of
both health and environmental aspects are necessary," she says.

Lingering uncertainties pose problems for regulators. Some, like Mr
Beachy, argue that the current regulatory burden is too great, raising the
possibility that many of the potential benefits of biotech could be lost,
while only the largest companies survive.

Others argue the reverse. The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, an
independent US watchdog, has warned that the current regulatory regime
could prove inadequate as the industry devises future generations of more
complex products such as plants that contain pharmaceuticals. "It is
unclear if regulators have the tools they need to evaluate these new
products adequately and there is reason to wonder if innovation is getting
ahead of our ability to manage it," it says.

The other big issue over GM crops is whether they will ever fulfil claims
that they can help feed the world's growing population, particularly the
poor. Biotechnology is seen by many as a means to develop crops with
features such as drought- or salt-resistance, which could be crucial to
survival in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Crops such as these are socially desirable but scarcely profitable.
Developing them means overcoming hurdles - including the reach of patent
regimes protecting the private sector, and underfunded public research
programmes. So far the efforts of bodies such as the Rockefeller
Foundation to secure private/public partnerships have resulted in only
limited success.

The World Bank last year launched an initiative to build an international
policy framework for the role of science in world agriculture. Monsanto
and Greenpeace remain round the table.

Says one participant: "It is a difficult process but it has the potential
to devise a system of intelligent agriculture that is both profitable and
sustainable. We won't get that from the WTO."

**********************************************

Faith in the Food: America Jumps the Gun on GM

- Editorial, The Guardian (London), May 14, 2003

The US government's decision to file a complaint with the World Trade
Organisation over the European Union's moratorium on genetically modified
food leaves a bad taste in the mouth. This long-running dispute over the
right of American firms like Monsanto to sell GM grain and seed in Europe
is slowly but surely becoming a trade war. It did not have to come to
this. Europeans are wary of the benefits of GM food. Many are yet to be
convinced the environment will be unharmed. And recent food scares have
made the public rightly sensitive to new, apparently untested
technologies.

In responding to these concerns, European member states have come up with
varying responses - but they boil down to the same thing: no commercial GM
crop growing and a moratorium on licensing new GM foodstuffs. These can be
lifted when new laws to label GM food, now wending their way through
Brussels, are passed. There are still issues to be sorted there but,
rather than wait for the European legislation to be passed, American
farmers, who claim to be losing $300m in lost sales every year, have
stirred the White House into action. This at a time when relations between
Washington and Brussels are tense over trade thanks to a series of
punch-ups.

Europe is an economic power. The rules governing its continent-sized
market mean its actions have global implications. Zambia refused GM food
aid during a drought because its president worried about its future corn
exports to the EU. China has halted licensing new GM crops. The US sees
lucrative markets in the developing world disappearing. This is America's
problem rather than Europe's, but the continent's consumers must have
faith in the food they buy and eat. Governments need to respond to voters'
legitimate worries. It is George Bush's right to take his concerns to the
WTO. But America could lose even if it wins - because getting GM food into
Europe does not mean people will buy it.

**********************************************

Deciding What's For Dinner

- Lori Wallach, tompaine.com, May 14, 2003. Lori Wallach is director of
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

The Bush administration announced on May 13 it will formally challenge
Europe’s moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) at the World
Trade Organization (WTO).

This case will become Exhibit No. 1 in the growing worldwide attack on the
WTO’s legitimacy. The fundamental issue here is democracy: The people
eating the food or living in the environment that could be affected must
decide domestic policy, not some secretive WTO tribunal of three trade
experts.

Indeed, polling shows that a majority of Europeans and Americans want GMO
foods to be segregated from non-GMO foods and labeled so that consumers
have a choice. The science on the long-term health and environmental
effects of GMOs is incomplete, making limits on GMOs a prudent policy to
avoid possibly irreversible damage to public health or the environment.
Many U.S. laws, such as our drug approval process, also require the
manufacturer to prove a product safe before it is allowed on the market
(not that the government must prove it is dangerous).

Europeans who don’t want to eat GMOs or fear GMO crops’ environmental
threats have democratically enacted these values and passed a policy to
segregate and label food made with GMOs. The moratorium is an interim
measure while the individual E.U. countries debate implementation of that
policy. Because the Europeans apply these same rules domestically -- in
the same manner that they do to imports -- there is no trade
discrimination and thus there really is no trade issue here.

However, although there is no trade discrimination in this situation,
there is a viable WTO case to be made in attacking the E.U. GMO
moratorium. The WTO contains extensive subjective, value-oriented rules
constraining signatory countries’ domestic food-safety policies that limit
the subject matter, level of protection and design of domestic food safety
policies. One such WTO rule puts the burden of proof on countries seeking
to regulate a product to show it is dangerous. This WTO rule means that
policies based on the Precautionary Principle -- that a manufacturer must
show a product safe over the long term before it goes on the market -- are
forbidden. The Bush administration today is putting the interests of its
agribusiness supporters over many of the values it purports to seek for
the world: democracy, accountability and openness.

The Bush administration, and before it, the Clinton administration, have
promised the American public that global trade deals will not and cannot
undermine domestic laws. Yet time and again this has proved false. Until
this GMO food challenge was launched, the focus this year had been on the
Bush administration’s sneaky New Year’s Eve attempt to dramatically weaken
the popular U.S. "dolphin-safe" tuna labeling regulation in the name of
complying with a trade ruling. Now Europeans are seeing GMOs being forced
down their throats by the powerful WTO dispute system.

**********************************************

U.S. Challenges Europe's Policy on Biotech Crops

- J.R. Pegg, ENS, May 14, 2003
http://ens-news.com/ens/may2003/2003-05-14-10.asp

The Bush administration has launched a formal complaint with the World
Trade Organization against the European Union for its five year ban on
approving new biotech crops, setting the stage for an international
showdown over an increasingly controversial issue. U.S. officials say the
European policy is illegal, harming the U.S. economy, stunting the growth
of the biotech industry and contributing to increased starvation in the
developing world.

The moratorium violates the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO),
according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, because the
European Union (EU) does not have scientific evidence that there is either
a risk to public health or to the environment from biotech - also known as
genetically modified (GM) - crops.

"People around the world have been eating biotech food for years,"
Zoellick said. "Biotech food helps nourish the world's hungry population,
offers tremendous opportunities for better health and nutrition and
protects the environment by reducing soil erosion and pesticide use." The
European Commission's (EC) own scientific analysis, Zoellick says, finds
that a ban on biotech foods is "unwarranted" and the EU's action is
impeding the "global use of a technology that could be of great benefit to
farmers and consumers around the world."

**********************************************

Australia to Join WTO Case on GM Approvals

- Australian Trade news, Parliament House, Canberra (sent by Rick Roush)

Australia will seek to join Argentina, Canada, Egypt and the United States
as a third party in their WTO challenge to the European Union’s moratorium
on approvals for the import of genetically modified organisms (GMO), Trade
Minister Mark Vaile announced today.

The EU moratorium means that imports of GMOs are being blocked by
decisions on GMOs that have no scientific basis. "Australia’s trade
interests and our interest in maintaining the role of the WTO in enforcing
rules on science-based decision making are at stake," Mr Vaile said.
"Australia’s agricultural exporters depend on fair trading rules
underpinned by science-based decision making, and these rules must not be
undermined," said Mr Vaile.

"This case is critical to Australia and all agricultural exporters. More
than thirteen countries have so far indicated an intention to participate
in the challenge. These include both developed and developing agricultural
exporters such as Chile, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand and Uruguay. We
must work together to break trade barriers such as this. Australia will
seek to participate as a third party in the dispute. This allows
Australia’s interests to be taken into account and reflects Australia’s
substantial

trade interest in the systemic issue of science based decision making. "By
taking this step Australia is using the WTO’s dispute settlement system as
it is intended, in order to uphold our trade interests" said Mr Vaile.
Australia is a minor producer of genetically modified crops, with limited
commercial interests at stake. The only commercially grown genetically
modified crops are cotton and carnations. Applications for commercial
release of genetically modified canola are currently under consideration
by the Gene Technology Regulator. Australia’s own regulations on
genetically modified organisms will not be examined in the dispute.

(Note by Prakash: Canada, New Zealand and Argentina have also sent similar
press releases.)

**********************************************

European Commission Critical of U.S. Decision to Pursue WTO Biotech Case

'Europea