The US said yesterday [Thursday] it would launch its formal challenge to the EU's negative alleged ban on genetically modified foods at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

US trade representative Robert Zoellick and agriculture secretary Ann Veneman confirmed they would combat the European policy by asking the WTO to set up a dispute settlement panel, reported Agence France Presse. They indicated they would have the support of other countries.

"Delegations from the United States, Canada and Argentina consulted in June with EU officials, but the EU indicated no willingness to comply with its WTO obligations by lifting the groundless moratorium on biotech products," Zoellick said.

Last month the EU moderated its stance by accepting two new labelling directives on GM foods, but the US felt the new rules changed little.

The EU imposed the moratorium because of concerns about food safety shared by a number of prominent politicians, environmental campaigners and a significant body of consumers.