In broad terms Europeans and Americans have different views of food. Europeans tend to view it as integral to their culture. Americans tend to see food as fuel.
The European perspective coupled with a distrust of government, due in part to bungling official responses to mad cow outbreaks, has altered agricultural trade.
For example the EU continues to resist the importation of American beef raised with hormones even though it has lost a trade complaint to the U.S. on the matter. And now the EU is about to confront another U.S. trade complaint over its skepticism of genetically modified organisms.
For almost 5 years, the U.S. Trade Representative has battled with EU commissioners over removing the moratorium on genetically modified grains. Until now, the U.S.T.R. had resisted a law suit, hoping for a positive outcome. This week, the issue came to a head. U.S. Agricultural Secretary Anne Veneman and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick held a joint press conference to announce they will pursue a legal remedy with the WTO. They brought with them an international cadre' of scientists bearing studies showing the productivity and safety of GMOs.
Robert Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative: "For American farmers the cost in lost sales runs into to hundreds of millions of dollars a year. For the world the stakes are even higher. Agricultural biotechnology offers great promise for raising farm incomes abroad, nourishing the worlds expanding population, and improving agriculture's environmental sustainability."
Anne Veneman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture: "Biotechnology is helping farmers increase yields, lower pesticide use, improve soil conservation, and water pollution and it helps reduce hunger and poverty around the world
In a show of solidarity, representatives of twelve other countries, including Argentina, Australia, and Canada were in attendance."
As previously reported on Market to Market, EU ministers, Franz Fischler and Pascal Lamy had asked as recently as last March for the United States to exercise restraint in bringing a case in the WTO, promising a swift and amicable outcome.
Anne Veneman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture: "The EU actions threaten to deny full development of a technology that holds enormous potential and potential benefits to both producers and consumers worldwide."
The first step required is consultations which take 60-days. Zoellick has stated publicly that if the EU drops the moratorium he will drop the case with the WTO. Typically the legal work takes 12 to 18 months to achieve some kind of resolution.