Editorial: Now, will Europe swallow Frankenfoods?

by 5m Editor
10 February 2006, at 12:00am

US - Probably not, even though the U.S. has won a major victory in the WTO over genetically modified food exports. Chalk one up for the U.S. On Feb. 7, the World Trade Organization ruled against the European Union in a dispute over import restrictions on genetically modified (GM) crops and foods. The preliminary ruling is hailed as a major win for the U.S. government, farmers, and the biotech industry. But across the Atlantic, the victory is seen as a pyrrhic one unlikely to erase European consumers&#39; longstanding aversion to what the local press has dubbed Frankenfoods. The long-simmering dispute centers on a 2003 complaint brought by the U.S., Canada, and Argentina, all major producers of GM crops. These countries claimed that the EU&#39;s six-year de-facto ban on GM products, beginning in 1998, constituted an unfair trade barrier with no scientific justification. Although the EU began allowing imports of GM products in 2004 on a case-by-case basis, individual European countries have reserved the right to ban GM products that already have been given the green light by Brussels. The EU, which grows less than 1% of the world&#39;s gene-modified crops, says it has approved more than 30 GM food and animal products since 1994. Import booster? The U.S. charges that the EU&#39;s current approval system, which calls for detailed labeling and traceability requirements, is slow and unworkable. Brussels says it&#39;s simply responding to consumer concerns and ensuring that GM products are safe. &quot;Europe&#39;s decision to halt GM approvals [in 1998] wasn&#39;t about erecting barriers to trade,&quot; says Sue Mayer, director of GeneWatch UK, a nonprofit group that monitors genetic technologies. &quot;It was about responding to public concern in order to have better rules and scientific knowledge.&quot; American farmers and industry giants such as Monsanto (MON ) charge that Europe&#39;s resistance to GM has cost them hundreds of millions a year in lost sales in a global market worth $5.5 billion. The U.S. hopes that the new ruling from the world&#39;s trade court will reverse the trend. At a Feb. 8 press conference in Brussels, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the WTO decision is likely to lead to a change in the EU&#39;s attitude toward GM products that will be result in greater imports. <i>Source: CheckBiotech</i>

5m Editor