The Bush administration is attempting to build an international coalition to fight the European Union’s moratorium on approvals of genetically modified food and drugs.

At a senate finance committee hearing, US trade representative Robert Zoellick was asked why the administration had not yet filed a complaint at the World Trade Organisation about the moratorium.

“I’m trying to build a coalition on this,” Zoellick was quoted by Reuters as saying. “I don’t want this to be just the US versus EU. I want to try to have other countries with us.”

US farm groups say they have lost US$300m in annual sales because of the moratorium.

The US maintains that GM crops are safe and that they could potentially reduce world hunger by boosting crop yields and improve the environment by reducing the use of pesticides. Supporters of the moratorium are concerned about contamination of normal crops and say the long-term effects of GM crops are not known.

The EU has warned the US that filing a case with the WTO would only heighten mistrust of GM foods.

Senator Max Baucus told Zoellick it was apparent that one reason the US had not acted on the issue is that the US does not want to create further tensions between it and the EU as the US tries to win support for a war in Iraq.

The EU has said the moratorium will remain in place at least until October.