Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Virginia's Goodlatte Blasts EU on Biotech Trade

Go get 'em Bob Goodlatte! Here is an article from the WP:

U.S. lawmakers: EU dragging heels on biotech trade

By Missy Ryan
Wednesday, November 15, 2006; 1:46 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States must pressure the European Union to stop dragging its feet on approving new imports of bioengineered food, senior U.S. lawmakers said in a letter released on Wednesday.

"The EU has avoided for too long its WTO obligations ... The illegal discrimination against biotech products on nonscientific grounds must cease," a group of lawmakers said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

Bioengineered foods are made from crops altered by biotechnology, boosting the vitamin content of a strain of rice, for example, by inserting genes from daffodils and from soil bacterium.

The EU has insisted on careful regulation of bioengineered food to screen for any risk to human health or to the environment.

The U.S. lawmakers, including the incoming chairs of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, want European officials to act quickly on the heels of a September 29 ruling by the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement body.

A main finding of that ruling was that a ban on approving new biotech products, which the EU had in place for four years until 2003, led to "undue delays."

"Winning the WTO case without achieving any positive changes in the approval process would greatly erode the credibility of the WTO in the eyes of U.S. agriculture," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was delivered to Schwab's office late on Tuesday.

It was signed by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, who are poised to lead the Senate and House Agriculture committees once Democrats take control of Congress in January.

The committees' outgoing chairs, Republicans Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, also signed the letter, along with the current heads of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

The European Union says its current regime for approving bioengineered products -- including a food safety authority based in Italy -- complies with WTO rules.

"The new system is science-based. We've set up a centralized procedure ... that's responsible for doing risk assessment" of bioengineered food, said Canice Nolan, who directs food safety, health and consumer affairs for the EU's delegation in Washington.

Keith Williams, a Chambliss spokesman, said the European Union had sidestepped WTO rulings in the past, and pointed to a case involving beef hormones.

Nolan said the European Union had not decided if it would appeal the WTO's ruling. It has until late November to do so.

A representative for Schwab, who is traveling in Asia, was not immediately available for comment

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