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European Council defends legal opinion on cloned animals

By Rory Harrington , 20-May-2011

The European Council has rejected MEP claims that its legal experts believed a ban on food from cloned animals would not contravene international law and spark a global trade war.

The latest episode, part of a long-running clash between the parties over animal clones, came after an MEP revealed an internal Council memo that appeared to show it thought a ban could be justified under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Such a view would contradict legal claims endorsed by the European Commission and its president.

Legal inconsistency claim dismissed

The claim surfaced weeks after the failure by Parliament and the Council to reach a compromise over food from cloned animals led to the derailing of the entire Novel Foods Regulation, which had been three years in the making.

In a plenary debate on novel foods held in Strasbourg on 11 May 2011, Dutch rapporteur Kartika Liotard suggested she had exposed an inconsistency between the legal opinions of the Council and Commission.

She said the Council legal experts had concluded: "The bans [on] food from cloned animals and [...] food from offspring of clones could be justified on the basis of the consumers' ethical considerations”.

But a Council spokesman dismissed the conclusion drawn by the MEP as inaccurate and incomplete.

“The Council Legal Service concluded that all measures under discussion at the time (including bans of food from cloned animals and from their offspring) entail risks as far as their compatibility with the WTO rules is concerned,” he told FoodProductionDaily.com.

Rule breaches

The Council said it thought the WTO would only accept a ban on food from animal clones and their offspring if it was not “like products” as it would not violate Article III:4 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) or of Article 2.1 of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement).

But legal experts from the Council underlined the case where the EU was not able to prove this – and said in this instance both GATT and TBT rules would be breached.

He added: “The Council Legal Service indicated that the EU might be able to justify the infringement of the GATT under its Article XX, but might face condemnation under the TBT Agreement which, contrary to the GATT, provides for no exception for public morals considerations.”

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