European consumers could boycott American products if US officials go ahead with their proposed challenge of the legality of the EU’s moratorium on genetically modified food, an EU official has warned.

If the Bush administration files a complaint against the EU at the World Trade Organisation, it “could trigger a boycott of American food products,” Tony Van der haegen, a biotech policy expert at the European Commission office in Washington, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

For several months now the US has been threatening to make the complaint at the WTO about the EU’s ban on approving new biotech products, but talk of filing a complaint died down as the US sought support for a war against Iraq.

Last week, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, urged the Bush administration to file the complaint.

Taking into account the strained relations between the EU and the US over the war in Iraq and given that Europe intends to lift the moratorium within a few months, Van der haegen said it might “not be worth going to the WTO anymore.”

The European Commission has been trying to lift the unofficial five-year moratorium due to fears Europe’s biotech industry is suffering. In order for the ban to be lifted, the EU will have to be satisfied with new labelling and traceability standards. Such standards could provoke a further legal challenge from the US.