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U.S. farmers want WTO review of GMO dispute with Europe

(Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2002 -- CropChoice commentary) -- Some major U.S. farm organizations, funded in part with corporate agribusiness dollars, are pressuring the Bush White House to stop the European leaders from implementing strict labeling and traceability requirements on genetically engineered foods by taking the issue to the World Trade Organization.

The farm groups want European politicians to not only dismantle their four-year moratorium on the introduction of any new genetically engineered varieties, but also not replace with the labeling regime. The goal: unfettered access to Europe for genetically engineered foods.

That European consumers don't want such products is immaterial.

Grant Aldonas, an international trade expert at the Commerce Department, put the right of the biotech and agribusiness conglomerates at the top of the priority list when he told the Wall Street Journal: "there may come a point where we have to exercise our rights."

"The U.S., however, is likely to weigh the costs of a broader trade dispute at a time when Washington and many European capitals aren't seeing eye to eye on the war on terrorism, for example," according to Scott Miller in yesterday's edition of the Wall Street Journal. "And given European sensitivity to food safety in the wake of outbreaks of mad-cow and foot-and-mouth diseases, European consumers could revolt against American goods.

Francois Renard, a trade specialist at the Norton Rose law firm in Brussels, said, 'The U.S. has strong technical and legal points on their side in a WTO case. But American companies have to consider how the publicity of their complaints to their government will affect European consumers' perceptions of their products.'"