The bitter dispute between the US The United States, Canada and Argentina, on the one hand, and the European Union (EU), on the other, on the latter’s restrictive policies towards genetically modified foods reaches what is probably a bitter peak this week when the World Organization of Trade (WTO) governs whether the EU has violated trade rules by blocking food produced using modern biotechnology techniques. Sour because the EU is threatening to dishonor the verdict if it is in favor of the United States, Canada and Argentina. The EU is interested in blocking genetically modified foods without scientific justification.
The dispute dates back to the spring of 1998 when five EU member states – Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg – issued a statement to block GMO approvals unless the European Commission (EC) proposed traceability legislation and the labeling of GMOs. A year later, in June 1999, EU environment ministers imposed a de facto six-year moratorium on all GMOs. The official moratorium has expired since then, but the recalcitrance of the EU towards GMOs and the obstruction persists.
The EU ban on GMOs has exasperated the US. The USA, Canada and Argentina, the main producers of crops with GMO improvements, to initiate a WTO dispute settlement process against the EU in May 2003, arguing that the moratorium harmed farmers and their export markets, particularly for corn and soybeans, and which are critical sources of income for farmers.
Now, the WTO verdict must be presented today (February 7, 2006). They have already reported that it will be the longest report document of its kind. This suggests that EU political complacency may have infiltrated the WTO process that complicates what a simple resolution of trade disputes should be. This is unfortunate for more than the two parties involved.
There is much at stake, not only for the parties in dispute, but for the whole world, and especially for the developing world. The dispute is not just another transatlantic commercial skirmish. The rights of consumers to have real choices regarding their food are at stake, and the freedoms of farmers to use approved tools and technologies to produce those food options safely.
The EU has never justified its restrictive policies towards GMOs, which makes everyone question the reason for the GMO ban. When it imposed a moratorium on GMOs, the EU cited indefinite security concerns as the reason for the drastic action. Their own scientists and regulators have repeatedly addressed and rejected the safety problems for these GMO crops. If similar and indefinite precautionary principle rules were applied to other farming practices, such as organic, Europe would have to similarly ban all food.
In the absence of a verifiable scientific justification to block GMOs from their territories, the EU is guilty of violating the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), of which it is a signatory. The SPS, in particular, recognizes that countries have the right to regulate crops and food products to protect health and the environment. However, the agreement requires “sufficient scientific evidence” to support regulations that restrict trade in crops and food products to protect the environment.
The EU’s argument in the WTO dispute is greatly eroded by the fact that several scientific bodies have repeatedly claimed GMOs. For example, the Food Science and Technology Institute (IFT) based in the United Kingdom, an independent body for food scientists and technologists, has stated that “genetic modification has the potential to offer very significant improvements in quantity, quality and acceptability of the world’s food supply. “
In 2004, the National Research Council (NRC) of the USA. UU., A division of the National Academy of Sciences (NAC), issued a report in which it discovered that genetic engineering “is not an inherently dangerous process,” calling for fears of the fight against biotechnology. “scientifically unjustified” crowd.
In June 2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report that recognized the potential of genetically modified foods to improve human health and development. The report, Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health and Development, noted that pre-marketing evaluations conducted so far have not found any negative health effects from eating genetically modified foods. Surely, no respectable scientific body would support a flawed innovation.
These findings can help explain why agricultural biotechnology innovators and product developers continue to thrive. Cropnosis, a leading provider of market research and consulting services in the fields of crop protection and biotechnology, estimates that the global value of biotech crops is $ 5.25 billion, representing 15 percent of the market of crop protection of $ 34.02 billion in 2005 and 18 percent of the $ 30 billion in the 2005 global commercial seed market.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agrobiotechnological Applications (ISAAA), in a report published earlier this year, reveals that since the commercialization of the first GM crop a decade ago, one billion acres of land in 21 countries are under crop biotechnology. In 2005 alone, the global area of approved biotech crops was 222 million hectares, compared to 200 million acres in 2004. This translates into an annual growth rate of 11 percent.
The lucrative nature of GM crops, which produce high and require less pesticides and herbicides, is driving many developing countries to adopt them. However, many, especially in Africa, where agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the continent, have been reluctant to grow GMOs for fear of losing their European agricultural markets. This is why Europe’s accession to GMOs remains critical for the adoption of GMOs in Africa. The EU, by default, is preventing many poor countries from benefiting from GMOs.
If Europe opens its doors to GMOs, many poor countries will benefit from this technology and the economic and life-saving benefits it has to offer. Many in poor countries predominantly live from agriculture. They should be given the opportunity to benefit from modern agricultural technologies, such as biotechnology. Denying poor countries, the opportunity to take advantage of crop biotechnology, which has been so successful in other parts of the world, amounts to condemning billions of people living in poor countries to a slow and painful death.