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Agricultural Biotechnology: The U.S.-EU Dispute

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Publication Date: January 2007

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS21556

Topic: Science and technology (Biology and biotechnology)

Abstract:

In May 2003, the United States, Canada, and Argentina initiated a dispute with the European Union concerning the EU's de facto moratorium on biotechnology product approvals, in place since 1998. Although the EU effectively lifted the moratorium in May 2004 by approving a genetically engineered (GE) corn variety, the three complainants pursued the case, in part because a number of EU member states continue to block already approved biotech products. The moratorium reportedly costs U.S. corn growers some $300 million in exports to the EU annually. U.S. officials also contend that the EU moratorium threatens U.S. agricultural exports to other parts of the world where the EU approach to regulating agricultural biotechnology is taking hold. On November 21, 2006, the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) adopted the dispute panel's report, which ruled that a moratorium had existed, that bans on EU-approved GE crops in six EU member countries violated WTO rules, and that the EU failed to ensure that its approval procedures were conducted without "undue delay." The EU has announced it will not appeal the ruling and has asked for a reasonable period of time in which to implement the ruling. This report will be updated.