WTO rules EU broke trade rules by stopping genetically modified food imports

The WTO has ruled that the EU broke international trade rules by stopping imports of genetically modified foods, officials said Tuesday.

The preliminary judgment by a World Trade Organization panel concluded that the European Union had an effective ban on biotech foods in place for six years from 1998, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it was a confidential report.

The report sided with a legal complaint brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina over an EU moratorium on approval of new biotech foods, the officials said. The panel ruled that individual bans in six EU member states Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg were against international trade rules.

The decision is said to be one of the most complicated the commerce body has issued and runs to about 1,000 pages. It has been delayed several times and diplomats said they were still studying the details late Tuesday.

The complainants claim that there is no scientific evidence for the EU's actions and that the moratorium has been an unfair barrier to producers of biotech foods who want to export to the EU.

Friends of the Earth say the case undermines the right of governments to decide for themselves what is safe for their citizens, and puts pressure on other countries especially developing nations to accept genetically modified foods against their will.

The EU ended its moratorium in 2004 when it allowed onto the market a modified strain of sweet corn, grown mainly in the United States, but Washington says it will continue with its WTO case until it is convinced that all applications for approval are being decided on scientific rather than political grounds, reports AP.

O.Ch.