EU pressed to lift its GMO ban

30.09.03 @ 08:50

  1. By Sharon Spiteri

The EU is under pressure to lift its five-year ban on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), as it risks facing a legal challenge by the US and other countries at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The complaints - made by the US and backed by Canada and Argentina - argue that the EU's policy on GMOs violates world trade rules.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler yesterday urged EU farm ministers to lift their moratorium on the approval of new genetically modified organisms, although some countries insisted further legislation was needed to shield consumers and farmers from potential hazards linked to the technology, the FT reported.

The European Commission has pushed hard to make sure the moratorium is lifted before a WTO panel rules on the case, which could be next year at the earliest.

The EU last month approved two new directives on GMOs. One requires that food be labelled if they contain at least 0.9 percent of GM ingredients; the second requires that the origins of GM foods be traced.

The EU said that this would lead to a lifting of the moratorium on GMOs.

However, the US argues that the new rules make no difference as the ban is still in place.

The US is also insisting that there is no scientific evidence proving damage to either human health or the environment and that the EU's "precautionary principle" goes too far, the BBC said.

Things could be further delayed by threats from Austria and Luxembourg that they will not back any new GMO authorisations without EU-wide rules on the "co-existence" of conventional, biological and GM farming.

Such rules would include measures aimed at preventing cross-pollination of GM and non-GM crops and would establish under what circumstances farmers would have to pay damages in case of such contamination.

But the Commission wants such rules to be established at a national level, to prevent any further delays, the FT said.

"It is important to note that the co-existence debate should not be misused for causes that will further delay the authorisations of new GMOs", Mr Fischler said.

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