Brussels, 22 January 2002
Officials in the USA and the European Union are reported to be hopeful that the de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will be tackled at the Barcelona European Council in March.
The deadlock on GMO authorisations in the EU began in 1998, blocked mainly by demands from France, Austria and Denmark for improved testing and a tougher labelling and traceability regime. Some 11 varieties of GMO had already been authorised in the EU before the de facto moratorium began, and 13 are currently awaiting approval.
In a speech to the Washington International Trade Association, US Undersecretary of State, Alan Larson, called for the EU's embargo on imported GMOs to be prioritised at the Barcelona summit. Commission sources are also reported to have confirmed that they would like to see the issue put on the spring summit's agenda.
The Commission proposed new rules on the labelling and traceability of GMOs in July 2001. The new rules complete Directive 90/220/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of GMOs.
In recent months, the Commission has suggested lifting the moratorium. The USA, whose firms are suffering a reduction in exports to the EU as a result of the moratorium, has threatened the imposition of sanctions in response to the ban, via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).