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U.S. seeks WTO intervention on biotech, takes battle to Brazil

(Friday, June 20, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Associated Press: Having failed in recent talks to persuade the European Union to lift its moratorium on biotech food, the United States is taking the fight to the World Trade Organization.

"We are disappointed but not surprised that these consultations have not resulted in any changes to the EU's 5-year-old illegal and unscientific moratorium," Richard Mills, a spokesman for the trade representative said Thursday.

The European Union put a moratorium on biotech foods and grain because of safety concerns. EU officials recently have been working on a system that would allow them to label genetically engineered food so that consumers can choose whether to buy it.

Last month, U.S. trade officials filed a complaint with the WTO to push Europe to lift the moratorium, arguing that it is an unfair trade barrier.

"The EU's moratorium is illegal, denies access to Europe's markets for healthy, nutritious biotech products from America and around the world, and denies choices to European consumers," Mills said. (CropChoice editor's note: How will European consumers have a choice if the food isn't labeled?)

U.S. officials have said they filed the complaint with the world's top trade regulators partly because they worried that Europe's anti-biotech sentiment is spreading to developing countries since some African countries rejected U.S. biotech food aid last fall.

Biotech crops have been widely grown in the United States for years, including corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified to resist insects or disease.

A U.S. case against the EU on genetically modified foods has added to a growing list of trade friction between the United States and Europe.

In the meantime...

U.S. takes battle over GM crops to Brazil

(Friday, June 20, 2003 -- CropChoice news) --Raymond Colitt, Financial Times, 06/19/03 via Agenet:

Rebuffed in attempts to sell genetically modified products to Europe, the US government and the American biotech industry are, according to this story, focusing on Brazil, one of the world's leading agricultural producers.

The story says that Washington this week is helping pay for a group of 20 Brazilian politicians, scientists and environmentalists to study the use of GM crops in the US and South Africa.

The study trip includes dinner with executives of Monsanto, the US bio-technology giant. Brazil's agricultural seed industry is also contributing to the tour cost.

The study comes as Brazil's government drafts legislation that could determine the future of GM crops there. With an estimated harvest of 115m tonnes of grains and billions of dollars in annual seed and pesticide sales, much is at stake.

Critics say the US government has been overtly promoting GM crops in developing countries after it challenged European Union restrictions on biotechnology in the World Trade Organisation last month.

Mariana Paoli, with Greenpeace in São Paolo, was quoted as saying, "This is blatant lobbying by Monsanto through the US government."

The US embassy in Brasília says the objective of the trip is simply to provide the delegation with information on the issue.