Iowa Public Television


European Union Delays Decision on Biotech Foods

posted on August 27, 2004

Commodity prices have risen because of increased demand, both at home and abroad. USDA said this week it expects farm exports for fiscal 2004 to reach a record $62 billion. That's nearly $6 billion more than the previous year.

Canada remains the number one market for U.S. agricultural products, followed by Japan and Mexico. Asia was the largest regional market, thanks to increasing business with China.

But Europe, while remaining an important export market for U.S. farmers, seems a less inviting place. Trade conflicts with the European Union on everything from basic feed grains to French truffles seem common. This week, U.S. farm trade interests encountered another roadblock ... this time on biotech foods.

European Union Delays Decision on Biotech Foods Still no answer on whether -- or when -- the European Union will accept biotech foods. The delay in the decision comes as the World Trade Organization agreed to an E.U. request to allow expert testimony from scientists before deciding on a complaint filed last year by the U.S., Canada and Argentina over the ban of modified foods for sale in Europe.

A WTO spokesperson said it isn't unusual for the trade organization to seek scientific advice. For example, scientists have been called in to assist panels dealing with disputes over animal and plant health issues as well as asbestos.

An anti-biotech group, Friends of the Earth Europe, called the WTO decision a "first round" victory for the E.U. U.S. officials say they will continue with the WTO case until they see a "predictable, ongoing process" based on science, not politics.

The E.U. had ended its six-year moratorium last May when it allowed onto the market, a modified strain of sweetcorn, grown mainly in the U.S. Another herbicide-resistant corn was approved for animal feed last month. But those decisions were made by the E.U.'s executive commission ... after ministers from the 25 member governments deadlocked on the applications.

Tags: biotechnology crops European Union food safety genetic engineering news