EU given extra time to end GMO bans

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Wto

The European Union yesterday won a two month extension for ending
its ban on imports of genetically modified (GMO) foods.

The extension means the EU has more time to reach conclusions over those member states implementing their own GMO bans and will avoid disciplinary action for the moment. Last November, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ordered Europe's ban be lifted following a case brought by leading GMO producers Argentina, Canada and the US under claims that their farmers were losing millions of euros annually because of the EU. The WTO had previously faulted the EU for undue delay in approving GMO products for a four-year period ending in 2003 and accused a number of member states of maintaining unjustified bans on those products already found safe by the EU. Peter Power, EU spokesman for trade, confirmed to FoodNavigator.com that a negotiation has been made extending the ban, with a new deadline set as 11 January 2008. However, he was unable to comment on the reasons for requesting the extension, and what developments will be made before meeting new deadline. However, EU member states have operated their own GMO bans, making it difficult for the Commission to comply with the WTO ruling. Last month, EU environment ministers failed to agree on whether to force Austria to lift its national ban on two types of GM maize, produced by US biotech company Monsanto and German drugs group Bayer. The decision has now been left in the hands of the Commission. It was the third time since 2005 that ministers had failed to reach a majority verdict, and meant the EU could not meet the WTO's original deadline of 21 November 2007. When the EU was given this time limit, it decided not to appeal, much to the anger of green organisations who are concerned about the effect of genetic modification on the environment. Friends of the Earth trade campaigner Sonja Meister said: "The WTO is the wrong body for settling trade disputes. It has a long history of putting corporate interests firmly ahead of environmental protection, public safety and democracy."

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