US-EU fire stoked as EU gets set to tighten trade regulations on GMOs

May 1, 2003, A proposal to tighten restrictions on trade of genetically modified organisms has successfully cleared European Parliament committee and is set to face the full parliament in June. This is the latest step in the ongoing European debate on GMOs, which has strained relations between the US and the EU.

The proposal which states that no GMOs can be exported from Europe without the formal consent of the importing country, has some biotech advocates worried that further regulations will hamper biotech innovation and research in Europe.

"Research is already down and the new requirements could only make things worse," Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at Europabio, the European association of biotech industries, was quoted by Dow Jones News as saying.

Supporters of the measure say they want to make sure that European countries respect importing countries’ bans on GMOs.

"The attempt by the US to exploit temporary food shortages in Africa to force developing countries to accept GM foods demonstrates how urgently we need such regulation," said Swedish green Parliament member Jonas Sjoestedt. "In the guise of humanitarian aid, the US was, in reality, simply trying to dump surplus GM food that nobody wants to buy."

US officials were angered when Zambia refused US food aid, out of what was believed to be fear of European retaliation for accepting GM corn. The US has threatened to file a suit with the WTO against the EU, but postponed the plans in order not to further damage relations with the EU in light of the war in Iraq.

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