6th Mar 2021

WTO rules against EU in biotech row

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has indicated a European moratorium on genetically modified products violated international rules as it was not justified by scientific evidence.

In an interim report unveiled on Tuesday (7 February), the Geneva-based organisation argued that the EU was wrong in preventing the use of new modified varieties of corn, soybeans and cotton between 1998 and 2004 on its market.

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  • New varieties of corn, soybeans and cotton should not have been banned in the EU, says the WTO (Photo: Notat)

The complaint against Brussels was filed by the US, Argentina and Canada in 2003.

But the WTO also blasted Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg for retaining their separate national bans on the GMO crops, even those approved by the European Commission.

The US officials, biotech industry and farm groups have welcomed the move.

"We’re hoping that it is going to send a strong message to other WTO members that biotech approvals must be science-based and can’t take the amount of time that the EU has taken in approving their biotech products," said Michelle Gorman from the American Farm Bureau Federation, according to FT Europe.

The European Commission hinted it would wait until the final decision by the global trade watchdog later this year before commenting on it.

But environmentalist groups have already expressed their disappointment.

Alexandra Wandel, from Friends of the Earth Europe, commented "The WTO, with its secretive decision-making processes, is unfit to decide what we should eat or what farmers should grow," hinting that the organisation "unfairly favours big business."

Some 70 percent of EU citizens oppose the introduction of new GM products in the union's farm markets.

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