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Washington, DC, February 6, 2006—The Competitive Enterprise Institute applauds the World Trade Organization’s expected February 7 finding that European bans and other marketing restrictions on bioengineered foods have no scientific basis and violate global treaty obligations by denying consumers choice.
“This decision is a triumph for consumer freedom over interest group lobbying,” said Gregory Conko, a CEI senior fellow, in anticipation of the ruling.
The forthcoming WTO decision is in response to a suit filed jointly by the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />United States, Canada, and Argentina in May 2003 and joined by eight other countries. The complaint alleged that on-going national bans on biotech foods, along with an EU-wide moratorium on the approval of biotech products, violated provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and three other treaties enforced by the WTO.
“The bans forbid shoppers from choosing biotech foods, even though European regulators and countless government-funded studies show biotech foods to be as safe, or safer, than conventional counterparts,” said Conko. The six-year moratorium on biotech product approvals ended in 2004, after the European Union implemented what it claims are the strongest biotech food regulations in the world. Those new regulations are not a subject of the WTO suit, but are also widely believed to violate various trade treaties.
“The decision was never really in doubt, but its global impact could be huge,” Conko explained. “The European restrictions have hindered the ability of poorer countries to take a part in the biotechnology revolution.” Countries in Asia, Africa, and South America have supported the United States position, because the EU restrictions also prevent them from growing biotech crops for export to the European market.
“With the voice of the world community now clearly on the record, we hope the Europeans will quickly dismantle their bans and let science-based policy and consumer freedom prevail,” said Conko.