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World Trade Organization Decides on GMO Issue

posted on February 10, 2006

All totaled, the White house wants to eliminate or cut 141 programs which it says will save taxpayers almost $15 billion dollars. It doesn't help with government "money matters" that trade dollars are not tipped in our favor. The Commerce Department on Friday said the U.S. trade deficit soared to its fourth consecutive year of all-time highs -- to more than 725 billion dollars. Much of the gap was attributed to U.S. record imports of oil, cars and food. On the agriculture side, the U.S. has been embroiled in controversial trade issues that have greatly hindered export opportunities. Most prevalent has been mad cow disease, where several countries banned U.S. beef for a couple of years following the discovery of one U.S. case of the disease. The U.S. is slowly regaining some of those markets. In the shadow of mad cow, has been another trade issue – this one over genetically modified crops and the struggle to get European countries to accept U.S. G-M-O products. In 2003, the U.S., and other countries, filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization charging the EU maintained an unlawful ban on genetically modified seeds and products. This week, the WTO issued a ruling on that 3-year old complaint.

World Trade Organization Decides on GMO Issue

The World Trade Organization this week concluded the European Union broke international trade rules by preventing the import of genetically modified crops and foods.

In a preliminary judgment, a WTO panel sided with a legal complaint brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina over an EU moratorium that was in place for six years – 1998- 2004.

The EU resumed issuing approvals of some GM foods in 2004 when it allowed a modified strain of sweet corn onto the market. Since then, some 30 GMO products have been approved ... although many are still not accepted in a handful of individual EU member states -- including France and Germany.

Even though some products have been allowed in, U.S. officials say the EU process is still slow and they will continue with the WTO case until convinced that all applications for approval are being decided on scientific rather than political grounds.

Proponents of biotech crops say seed varieties are engineered with genes that can, among other things, act as insecticides or herbicides and reduce the need for a farmer to spray his fields.

Opponents say there are no proven health or environmental benefits to GM crops and that the engineered genes can't be contained once released into the environment.

U.S. farm and industry groups say the EU ban has cost the export market $300 (M) million dollars a year in lost sales to the 25 European member states.

While U.S. farm groups and political leaders hail the decision as an important step toward opening European markets ... the WTO's decision is preliminary and still needs to be confirmed in a final ruling expected in a month's time. Even then, the decision could be appealed.


Tags: agriculture biotechnology crops genetic engineering Mad Cow news