The United States, Argentina and Canada have asked the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to set up a dispute settlement panel to decide whether or not the EU's policies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) constitute a barrier to trade, reports CORDIS.
This latest escalation in the transatlantic row over GMOs comes just a month before the WTO ministerial conference in Cancún, Mexico. The three countries accuse the EU of maintaining a de facto moratorium on GM authorisations, a charge strongly denied by the European Commission.
"We regret this move to an unnecessary litigation," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. "The EU's regulatory system for GMOs is clear, transparent, reasonable and non discriminatory. We are confident that the WTO will confirm that the EU fully respects its obligations."
However, Linnet Deily, the US envoy to the WTO, said that the EU's policies were hampering the development of a technology that holds "great promise for raising farmer productivity, reducing hunger and improving health in the developing world, and improving the environment", according to reports.
A Commission statement, meanwhile, argues that: "The allegation that the EU is hindering the great cause of ending hunger in Africa is not founded. A large number of countries suffering a shortage of food have requested main donors of food aid to avoid GM food."
The statement also highlighted a recent ABC News poll of 1,024 adults in the US, which found that 92 per cent of them supported clearer labelling of GM foods.
The average time frame for WTO dispute settlement panel procedures is around one year. However, the evidence of scientific experts necessary in this particular case may prolong the case.