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Washington Asks WTO to Probe EU Biotech Policy

GENEVA - The United States on Monday asked the World Trade Organization to declare the European Union's refusal to accept most genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as illegal under global trade rules, Reuters reports. The request was opposed by the EU.

The United States, supported by Canada and Argentina, first announced in May that it planned to take the EU to the WTO over the issue and reaffirmed its intentions earlier this month.

WTO rules allow the EU, as the defendant, temporarily to block the move. However, the panel will automatically be formed when Washington repeats its request at the next meeting on Aug. 29, according to Reuters.

"We regret this move to an unnecessary litigation," EU Trade Commission Pascal Lamy said in a statement. "The EU's regulatory system for GMOs is clear, transparent, reasonable and non-discriminatory," he said.

The Europeans have not allowed new genetically modified crops to be imported or grown in the Union's 15 member states since 1998.

Last month, EU farm ministers approved a labeling program for biotech food and animal feed, which was seen as an important step towards lifting the moratorium.

The WTO investigation, when it is finally launched, could take up to 18 months, including a likely appeal by the loser.
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