European poll warns of backlash if U.S. takes biotech case to WTO

By Scott Miller and Brandon Mitchene

BRUSSELS, January 21, 2003 -- The Wall Street Journal: David Byrne, the EU commissioner for health and consumer protection, was cited as saying that U.S. food companies face a consumer backlash in Europe if Washington follows through on threats to lodge a formal complaint at the World Trade Organization over the European Union's biotech food policies, and that the increasingly harsh U.S. rhetoric on Europe's 4 1/2-year ban on testing new genetically modified food is unfair, arguing Europe is making progress toward restarting approvals this year, adding, "If the U.S. or another trading bloc sought a regime on how food was put on the market in Europe, I think the public would react extremely badly."

The story says that U.S. companies that support taking action say they are concerned it may hurt their bottom line. But many in the Bush administration, including Mr. Zoellick, now believe that lodging a WTO case is important as a matter of principle.

Mr. Byrne didn't indicate specifically what form a European consumer backlash could take. But trade analysts have warned that Europeans might steer clear of U.S. food products if Washington brought a WTO case to protest what consumers could consider an American attempt to restrict information about the food they find on store shelves.

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