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US, EU claim WTO victory

By Stephen Cadogan
THE US and the EU each claimed they were favoured by last week’s World Trade Organisation report on the EU’s controls over imports of genetically modified foods.

The 1,050 page preliminary WTO ruling concluded the EU effectively banned biotech foods between June 1999 and August 2003. But this ban has since been lifted, and the WTO made no recommendations for action against the EU - although their report largely sided with the US, Canada and Argentina’s legal complaint over EU controls on approval of new biotech foods, and ruled that individual bans in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg violated international trade rules.

The report concluded that the EU had breached its commitments with respect to 21 products. But it rejected several contentions that the EU had broken trade rules on several other products.

The US has argued that a ban on American corn exports to Europe, originally imposed by Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg, is still in place.

Austria’s health minister Maria Rauch-Kallat said protection of people and the environment have absolute priority, and she defiantly asserted that Austria will exhaust all possibilities to keep its agriculture GM-free and ensure consumers’ safety.