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US 'disappointed' by EU opt-out plan for GMO imports

22 April 2015, 17:44 CET
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US 'disappointed' by EU opt-out plan for GMO imports

Corn fields

(WASHINGTON) - The United States expressed concern Wednesday about the European Union's plan to allow individual member countries to decide whether to allow imports of controversial genetically modified foods and animal feed.

The EU announcement earlier in the day came as US and EU negotiators were holding the ninth round of talks in New York this week aimed at creating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the world's largest free-trade zone.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said that the European Commission's proposal to amend legislation in the genetically engineered food and feed approval process would allow the 28 EU countries "to ignore science-based safety and environmental determinations made by the European Union and 'opt out' of imports of GE food and feed."

"We are very disappointed by today's announcement of a regulatory proposal that appears hard to reconcile with the EU's international obligations," Froman said in a statement.

Dividing the EU into 28 separate markets for the circulation of certain products "seems at odds with the EU's goal of deepening the internal market," the top US trade negotiator said.

"At a time when the US and the EU are working to create further opportunities for growth and jobs through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, proposing this kind of trade restrictive action is not constructive."

Froman pointed to a 2006 World Trade Organization decision that found that EU member-state bans on import and cultivation of genetically engineered products violated WTO rules, because the safeguards were not based on risk assessments.

Under Tuesday's proposal, EU member states opposed to genetically modified foods will now be able to cite grounds outside health and safety, such as social or environmental impact, for banning them without embroiling the Commission, the EU's executive arm, in a political stand-off that delays the approval process.

The European Parliament will review the proposal before it is submitted to member states for final approval.

EU Commission policies on GMOs - background guide
GMOs in the EU - review of the decision-making 
process - background guide

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