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Genetically Engineered Foods

Bush Administration Ready with EU GMO Case  

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush Administration has decided to bring a trade case against the European Union over Europe's ban on imports of genetically modified food, congressional officials say.

These sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that U.S.  Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman plan to brief key members of the House and Senate Tuesday to explain the
administration's case.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and other Republican and Democratic lawmakers from the House and the Senate were expected to attend the briefing.

"We have been told to expect good news on behalf of American agriculture," said Pete Jeffries, a spokesman for Hastert.

Hastert has been leading an effort to get a WTO case filed for a number of years, arguing that U.S. farmers were losing millions of dollars in lost export sales.

European authorities imposed a moratorium on imports of genetically modified foods in 1998, responding to fears of European consumers about possible health risks.

In March, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the ranking Democrat on the Finance panel, took Zoellick to task for the administration's delay in filing a WTO case.

The administration had delayed filing a WTO case in February, when Bush was trying to assemble as much support as possible for a war against Iraq.  Grassley said the E.U.'s four-year ban on generally modified food was costing U.S. farmers $300 million annually in lost sales and hurting
U.S. companies that had devoted significant resources to develop genetically modified crops.

These crops are used extensively in the United State to allow farmers to grow more disease resistant products such as corn and soybeans.

Zoellick himself had called the E.U. ban "immoral" back in January, saying that European countries had started to pressure other countries not to accept genetically modified foods, including African nations suffering with famines.

Supporters of genetically modified crops say they have been proven to be effective in boosting crop yields, critically important for nations struggling to feed their population. The administration contends that there is no scientific evidence that the crops pose any health risks.

Farm products that have been genetically modified to make them more resistant to insects or disease have been grown commercially in the U.S. for years. The amount of U.S. soybean production that has been genetically modified reached 68% in 2001; about 30% of the U.S. corn crop is
genetically modified.

A U.S. case against the E.U. on genetically modified foods would add to a growing list of trade frictions between the U.S. and Europe.

The WTO ruled U.S. tax benefits for corporations that have been ruled illegal; European officials said last week that if Congress doesn't make progress in getting rid of the law, it would impose penalty tariffs on up to $4 billion in U.S. exports to Europe.

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