- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Agricultural groups are urging the Bush administration to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the European Union's moratorium on approvals of new genetically modified crops.
The moratorium has blocked U.S. companies from exporting such products to the 12-nation EU. A WTO ruling in the United States' favor would allow punitive sanctions if the EU does not change its rules.
"The EU's ongoing and illegal moratorium has resulted in lost export markets for U.S. producers and exporters, a slowdown in the adoption of new technologies in the United States and other countries, and increased production and testing costs for U.S. agricultural interests," 30 agricultural trade organizations wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick on Nov. 8.
Citing consumer health and environmental concerns, the EU has halted authorization of new genetically modified organisms and crops from entering its market since October 1998.
U.S. companies are at the forefront of producing seeds and crops that have had their genetic material modified in ways that do not occur naturally. The most common genetically modified crops are soybean, corn, cotton and canola, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization survey.
The genetic modifications are often designed to improve yields and to resist diseases, harsh environmental conditions, and pests or pesticides.
The EU, aware of pressure from the United States, implemented new rules for introducing genetically modified products to its market last month but still did not lift the moratorium.
Because of internal divisions among EU member states, the new rules are meaningless and will not help settle the dispute, said Don Lipton, a spokesman for the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the groups that signed the letter.
France, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Belgium and Denmark have opposed allowing new genetically modified organisms into their markets, said a Washington-based EU official.
On top of the ongoing moratorium, U.S. producers are concerned with the new EU rules because they would require strict labeling of food products made from biotech commodities.
"As currently drafted, the regulations would impose scientifically unjustified, infeasible and costly labeling and traceability burdens on exports of biotech products to the EU," the letter said.
The EU, for example, would require corn oil made from genetically modified corn or ketchup made from genetically modified tomatoes to be labeled as such.
"The labeling of all GM food and feed products will allow consumers and farmers to decide if they want to buy food or feed produced from a [genetically modified organism], or not," the EU said in a document explaining its position.
U.S. producers are also irked because some European products, such as wine and cheese, are made with genetically modified enzymes and yeasts but require no labeling.
Final rules for labeling and traceability are being considered by the EU's Parliament and Council of Ministers, the Washington-based EU official said. Once adopted, the moratorium should be lifted, the official said.

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