Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 11 News List

WTO says EU's six-year GM ban broke trade rules


The WTO has upheld a ruling that European countries broke international trade rules by stopping imports of genetically modified (GM) foods, officials said yesterday.

The verdict, handed out confidentially late on Wednesday, found that the EU had an effective ban on biotech foods for six years from 1998 -- siding with the US and two other countries who said the moratorium was illegal under the WTO's rules, according to officials who have reviewed the report.

The ruling essentially confirmed a 1,050-page preliminary report issued in February, which concluded that the EU had breached its commitments with respect to 21 products -- including types of oilseed rape, maize and cotton.

February's report also said individual bans in six EU member states -- Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg -- violated international trade rules, but it did not rule on whether current EU legislation was illegal, and sidestepped the issue of whether biotech products were safe.

The ruling, which is not expected to be made public for many weeks, can still be appealed.

An EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a confidential report, said the substance had not changed from the preliminary ruling.

Genetically modified foods are highly sensitive on both sides of the Atlantic. European governments, as well as a number of environmental groups, contend that many such crops are unsafe for humans and the environment.

But the complainants -- Canada, Argentina and the US -- say that there is no scientific evidence for the EU's actions.

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