Last week was the expiration of the deadline for the European Union to respond to the World Trade Organization's call for lifting the ban on genetically modified food. The WTO action was a result of a case brought by the United States several years ago. As a result, the U.S. is weighing its options.
"We are taking steps necessary under WTO rules to preserve our right in the WTO to extend trade concessions," says Gretchen Hamel of the U.S. Trade Representative's office. "At the same time our goal is to normalize trade in biotech products, not to impose trade sanctions on the EU."
Although they failed to respond to the WTO's compliance order, the EU has agreed to make biotech approval decisions based on science without delays. Because of this, the U.S. has agreed to suspend for a limited period the proceedings on the WTO request for authority to suspend concessions to give the EU time to demonstrate meaningful process on the approval of biotech products.
Coinciding with the deadline last Friday for EU response was the announcement that France was banning the only variety of biotech corn currently planted in the EU. Hamel says it is a related development, and the U.S. is very disappointed by France's decision. Especially considering this variety has been grown in the U.S., EU and around the world for more than 10 years. A similar ban by Austria was struck down as illegal under WTO rules.
"We expect the EU commission to move promptly to lift this unjustified ban," Hamel says. "And we hope the government of France will reconsider this unwarranted action."