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WTO upholds challenge of European biotech ban
Posted by: DR.RAUPP E. K. (IP Logged)
Date: October 03, 2006 10:25AM ; ;

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that a European Union (EU)
moratorium on approvals of agricultural biotechnology products is illegal,
the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) says, October 2006 by
Kathryn McConnell.

The ruling in favor of "science-based policymaking over unjustified,
anti-biotech policies" brings the United States "one step closer to clearing
barriers ... and expanding global use of promising advances in food
production," according to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, the top
U.S. trade negotiator.

"I urge the EU to fully comply with its WTO obligations and consider all
outstanding biotech product applications and evaluate their scientific
merits in accordance with the EU's own laws," Schwab said.

The decision upholds a challenge brought to the WTO in 2003 by the United
States, Canada and Argentina. The three countries said the moratorium on
biotech application approvals, adopted in 1998, did not comply with WTO
trade rules.

The WTO says its members' crop and food product safety regulations must be
based on scientific evidence and not be used to interfere with the trade of
safe products.

Following the moratorium challenge, the EU approved "a handful" of biotech
product applications but the broad ban remained in effect.

A dispute-settlement panel formed after the challenge was submitted sought
evidence and opinions from independent and WTO experts on the science-based
merits of biotech products.

Many scientists have determined that foods produced using biotechnology
procedures pose no threat to people or the environment, according to a
September 29 release from USTR.

In addition, the release states that biotechnology "has delivered" on
promises to increase agricultural yields and enhance food security for the
world's growing population, reduce pesticide use, improve nutrition and
disease prevention, and increase the incomes of farmers.

The dispute -- the longest-lasting case in WTO history -- also challenged
product bans imposed by EU members Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy
and Luxembourg on products the EU had approved before the moratorium.

In each instance, the panel determined that the bans "were not supported by
scientific evidence" and were inconsistent with WTO rules, according to the

Despite the moratorium, there is "considerable support for agricultural
biotechnology within Europe," USTR said.

Worldwide use of biotech crops has continued to increase with an estimated
90 million hectares planted in 2005, more than one-third in the developing
world, USTR said.

Leading producers of biotech crops include the United States, Argentina,
Brazil, Canada and China.

Biotech crops are grown also in Australia, Colombia, the Czech Republic,
France, Germany, Honduras, India, Iran, Mexico, Paraguay, the Philippines,
Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Uruguay.

Both sides in the dispute have 60 days to decide whether to appeal any part
of the ruling.

The full text of a press release announcing the decision is available on the
USTR Web site.

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