Despite recent discussions between the European Union and the United States on the EU’s moratorium on approving new genetically modified organisms, the US has called on the World Trade Organisation to form a panel to decide the case, according to the US Trade Representative office.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that these consultations have not resulted in any changes to the EU’s five-year-old illegal and unscientific moratorium,” Richard Mills, a spokesman for the office, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Last month US trade officials filed a complaint with the WTO aimed at forcing the EU to lift the moratorium, which the US claims is an unfair trade barrier.

In response, the EU maintained that its authorisation system is in line with WTO rules. The European Commission said that during consultations with the US and Argentina over its authorisation system for GMOs the EU underlined its legitimate right to establish a regulatory regime to ensure that GMOs are only put on the market on the basis of a careful assessment of risks.

The Commission said that the consultations were carried out constructively. The EU responded to all the questions from the US and Argentina on both the EU regulatory framework for GMOs and the status of pending applications for approval.

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On 13 May the US announced its intention to request WTO consultations with the EU on this issue, together with Argentina, Canada and Egypt. It also announced that other countries expressing support for this case by joining it as third parties included: Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay.

The Commission said that for transparency reasons, the EU has accepted all the requests from WTO Members wishing to participate in the consultations as third parties, even if a number of them are not growing or exporting any GMOs.

It noted, however, that to date Egypt has not requested WTO consultations, Honduras and El Salvador have not requested third party status and a number of countries, such as Peru, New Zealand and Australia, maintain in their legislation restrictions on GMOs including general moratoria on approvals. The Commission also said that the EU has approved more GMOs than any of the third parties in the consultations.