Monday, July 12, 1999 Published at 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Business: The Economy
Beef trade war heats up
European consumers get their beef free of artificial hormones
Some of the meat, fruit and even chocolate exported from Europe could in effect be banned by the United States and Canada in the latest step in a row which started over American beef.
The World Trade Organisation has ruled that an EU ban on hormone-treated beef has cost the US $116m and Canada $7.4m.
The WTO's ruling is a partial victory for EU diplomats, who say they are "very pleased that the arbitrators have taken our arguments into account". They will now do their best to prevent the imposition of sanctions.
Sanctions vs compensation
But the US and Canadian governments want to impose sanctions on European exports, feeling that this would provide a bigger incentive for the EU to reconsider its position.
EU officials hope that the United States may still consider compensation to make up for its farmers' losses. An EU official said that such a solution would be "much better for all the parties concerned".
North American farmers use implants of natural and artificial hormones and an hormonal feed additive to boost meat yields. The extra hormones make cattle grow muscle faster than untreated animals.
US and Canadian farmers and health experts dispute this.
Another contentious issue is whether all North American farmers follow the rules on placing the hormone implants in the animals, or whether some take a shortcut that increases the amount of hormones ending up on dinner plates of beef consumers.
US officials have accused the EU of dragging its feet and using drawn-out scientific research as a pretext for protecting its own beef farmers.
The situation was complicated further when earlier this year EU experts discovered hormones in beef that had been declared hormone-free by US authorities.
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