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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 19:10 GMT
EU to fight for GM food ban

WTO Philippine peasants joined in worldwide protests at WTO

Following the collapse of world trade talks in Seattle, the EU has vowed to press ahead with tough new measures to control trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The battle for free trade
The EU wants a rapid conclusion of the negotiations on an International Biosafety Protocol which resume in Montreal next month.

According to the spokeswomen for EU environment commissioner Margot Wallstrom, the EU will be taking a tough line on the talks.

GM corn The USA produces the most GM corn
"Ministers stressed the need for an agreement to be struck now and said this protocol should not to be subordinated to the World Trade Organisation rules," she said.

The issue of GM foods is threatened to lead to the next trade war with the United States, after rows over bananas and hormone-treated beef.

The United States, which has already threatened to take Europe to the WTO for arbitration on the issue, is the world's largest producer of GM foods.

But with European fears growing about the safety of GM foods, the EU now wants full traceability of any imports of GM products and advance notification of any cross-border shipments.

Precautionary principle

The EU proposal would mean that GM foods would be dealt with as a health matter under the "precautionary principle" - the idea that no risks should be taken with health while there is any evidence that a danger might exist.

The United States, meanwhile, would prefer GM foods to be dealt with by the less strict rules of the World Trade Organisation - which would mean that the EU would have to produce proof of a health risk to an international panel who would rule whether the products are safe to ship.

But the failure of the Seattle trade talks meant that the US proposal for a working group in the WTO to try and reach agreement on approval procedures for GM crops was never set up.

Previous attempts to reach agreement on the biosafety protocol were blocked by the so-called "Miami group", a coalition of agricultural exporters including Canada, Australia, Argentina and Chile as well as the United States.

The EU wants also the precautionary labelling of GM foods and has banned all GM crops within Europe since April 1998.

Many shops in the UK have now certified that their products are "GM-free," and the spread of "Frankenstein foods" has been attacked by, among others, Prince Charles.

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See also:
02 Dec 99 |  Business
EU makes biotech concessions
01 Dec 99 |  Americas
WTO 'seizing control of GM trade'
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Agriculture trade battle looms

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