Agricultural Biotechnology: The U.S.-EU Dispute

Charles E. Hanrahan
In a US Congressional Research Service report, Charles Hanrahan recounts a dispute between the United States (along with Argentina and Canada) and the EU over the subject of genetically modified crops. The EU had kept a de facto moratorium on the import of genetically engineered foodstuffs, which the US argued was in violation of World Trade Organization rules and was causing economic harm to the United States both directly and through the global influence of EU policy. At the heart of this dispute was the EU’s presumption of an essential difference between genetically engineered (GE) crops and their non-engineered counterparts and six member countries’ bans on modified product the EU had approved. The WTO ultimately upheld many of the US’ claims, undermining the de facto moratorium, but it did not directly end the moratorium, weigh in on questions of safety related to GE products, or suggest how to reconcile the different regulatory approaches of the US and EU.