9th Mar 2021

EU confident of trade organisation backing on GMOs

The transatlantic battle over the fate of genetically modified organisms in Europe took a new turn on Monday (18 August), when the US, Canada and Argentina asked the World Trade Organisation to rule on the issue.

This latest move has been met with anger by the EU which has recently approved new legislation which it says will lead to the lifting of the moratorium on GMOs in the Union.

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In a strongly-worded press release, the European Commission defended its position and outlined the steps it has taken to improve its legislation.

Pascal Lamy, EU Trade Commissioner, said "we have been in what we found a rather constructive dialogue with Argentina, Canada and the US on the issue. We regret this move to unnecessary litigation"

He added, "We are confident that the WTO will confirm that the EU fully respects its obligations".

The EU Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström, said "my concern is that this request will muddy the waters of the debate in Europe".

The issue of GMOs has long been a bone of contention between the EU and the US.

Heavy pressure to end ban on GMOs

Washington has been putting the EU under heavy pressure to update its GMO legislation, which, due to its complexity, had resulted in a de facto ban on GMOs in the Union since 1998.

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

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

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

"This trade barrier harms farmers and consumers around the world by denying them the benefits of productive, nutritious and environmentally friendly biotech products", said Bob Zoellick, US trade representative.

US President George Bush has also claimed on several occasions that the EU is contributing to starvation in Africa with it moratorium - something which the Union furiously denies.

WTO panel to to be set up

The WTO panel, which arbitrates on trade disputes, can be set up on the request of a country after a sixty day consultation period between the opposing sides - a period which has just expired in the EU-US case.

Once the panel is set up, the complainants (the US, Canada and Argentina) have between 3 and 6 weeks to file their written submission, the EU then has another 2-3 weeks to respond.

EU pressed to lift its GMO ban

EU Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler urged EU ministers to lift the ban on GMO food, as the EU risks facing legal challenge by the US and other countries at the World Trade Organisation.

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