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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 06:16 GMT
US wavers on EU trade spat
Ship carrying genetically modified produce from the US
An EU no to GM foods, but yes to war?
Washington has decided to hold off hauling the European Union before international trade officials for refusing to allow the sale of genetically modified produce.

The US embassy's official for agricultural affairs in London, Peter Kurz, told the BBC's Radio 4 Farming Today programme that a complaint would not be made to the World Trade Organisation for the time being.

Mr Kurz denied the concession was designed to curry favour among EU nations over a war against Iraq.

"I wouldn't dream of speculating about any connection between this issue and any... broader urgent issue in the world today," he said.

"I happen to think that this decision is probably made on the merits of the issue itself."

There have been a number of high profile, trade spats in recent years between the US and the EU.

Mr Kurz said the decision "was made at a high level of government."

"I suppose the idea was we don't need further trade irritants," he said.

US 'may reconsider'

The EU banned all GM products in 1998 except soya, which had already been approved for sale in Europe.

The US claims the ban broke WTO trade rules.

"If there is some way of working this one out then so much the better," Mr Kurz said.

"If not, then maybe the decision will have to be reconsidered."

The US position is that Europe should not discriminate against GM crops and produce, and not insist that they are specially labelled.

"This does not mean we're still not very concerned about the moratorium on approval of new US GM crops or that we are not very concerned about the position on labelling and traceability," Mr Kurz said.

"We believe that foods should not unnecessarily be labelled when there is no substantial difference between two foods according to the way they are produced."

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