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Fischler urges U.S. to drop WTO biotech case

(Wednesday, July 30, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- DTN:

WASHINGTON -- There's little point in the US continuing to bring charges against the EU in the World Trade Organization regarding the EU's moratorium on biotech approvals, according to European Union Agricultural Commissioner Franz Fischler.

Earlier this year the United States took a biotech case against the European Union to the WTO. The basis for the case is the moratorium several European countries have placed on approving new biotech products. The European Union is in the process of putting a new biotech regulatory and labeling regime in place, but the Bush administration has indicated that it may continue to pursue the case if it deems the new regulatory and labeling regime as too restrictive.

Fischler, who was in Washington for meeting prior to attending the Montreal mini-ministerial that is supposed to set the agenda for the of trade officials in Montreal, noted after a speech to the Global Business Dialogue that he expects the European Union to grant approval of some new genetically modified food products later this year.

"There is no reason any more to challenge the European Union in a panel in the WTO," Fischler said. But when asked by reporters about Zoellick's and Veneman's reactions to his view, he said genetically modified foods did not come up.

Fischler did not stress the issue on his trip to Washington, but a prominent Brussels agribusiness lobbyist told DTN in a recent interview that the U.S. biotech case against the European Union sits "like an atomic bomb" over the trade negotiations.

European officials "are hoping to get the system to work on our side" so that the United States will drop the case, the lobbyist said. "It's such a complex case it's hard to know who is going to win it," the lobbyist said, adding that public sensitivity about genetically modified foods is so high in Europe that "if it goes wrong it could be a bomb that would explode" the WTO negotiations.