Brussels advises US against bringing GM food case
BARCELONA, Spain - EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy urged the United States on Friday to think twice before launching a World Trade Organisation case against the bloc for restrictions on genetically modified foods.
The European Union has had a virtual ban on most genetically modified (GM) crops since 1999 when a large minority of EU states decided not to authorise any new GM crops for use in the bloc amid concern over potential environmental and health risks.
The United States has said the ban is illegal.
A senior U.S. official said last week that the cabinet of U.S. President George W. Bush was considering launching a World Trade Organisation (WTO) case against the 15-nation EU.
\"My advice would be to think twice before launching a complaint, to think very carefully,\" Lamy told a meeting with businessmen and journalists in Barcelona.
\"The WTO gives its members the right to protect health and the environment from the possible threat from genetically modified food,\" he said.
\"I do not know whether the United States is interested in introducing a case before the WTO on this point,\" Lamy added.
Earlier this month, EU environment ministers approved new rules which could eventually lead the bloc to reopen its markets to GM foods.
The new rules require ships carrying bulk grain to detail exactly what GM products, if any, the shipments contain. The regulation now requires approval by the European Parliament.
Referring to WTO negotiations on reductions in farm subsidies and tariffs - launched in the framework of the Doha round of trade talks - Lamy said he hoped that the EU would be able to table its proposal before the end of this year.
\"I have the impression that we are very close to an agreement on this (within the EU),\" he said. \"It should not take months, but rather weeks or perhaps even days.\"
\"I hope that we will be able to present the proposals before the end of the year,\" Lamy said, adding that this would be in line with international pledges to reach agreements on the broad lines of an agricultural trade deal by the first quarter of 2003.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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