Sunday, October 01, 2006

WTO Panel Decision on EU Biotech Cases

The WTO Panel has delivered its final report on the European Communities (EC) approval and marketing of biotech products.

In May 2003, the United States, Canada, and Argentina took their complaints to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body on EC approval and marketing of biotech products and, in particular, the moratorium on GM agricultural and food imports (introduced in the context of a need for effective regulation of co-existence of agricultural markets in Europe). The final report was published Friday afternoon, 29 September, and has concluded that the moratorium is inconsistent with obligations under the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).

Although the Panel concluded that the moratorium had caused "undue delay" and so the EC had acted inconsistently with obligations under Annex C(1)(a) and thus Article 8 (Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures), the complainants had either failed to establish their position or the EC had not acted inconsistently in respect of the other obligations raised in the complaints.

Consumer groups have criticised the report, suggesting that alternative mechanisms must be available to rule on what are international environmental laws, not trade disputes as such. On this point, consumer groups have objected to the prohibition of public involvement.

Of particular interest, a Friends of the Earth Europe press release, suggested that it makes no difference to the rejection of GM products by European consumers. Earlier posts to Patenting Lives, including GM Food in Europe and Beyond: Consumer Trends, make similar observations.

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