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Genetically Modified Organisms and the World Trade Organization

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Genetically Modified Organisms and the World Trade Organization

The dispute between the United States of America and the European Union over the labeling of products derived from genetically modified organisms will continue until the World Trade Organization places universal regulation on the labeling of these products. Currently many countries in the European Union are being very cautious about their use of Genetically Modified Organisms that might have adverse affects on consumers and the environment. The USA, India, China, Argentina, and Australia on the other hand have welcomed GMOs with little or no major controversy. The WTO became involved when both the EU and USA took action to protect their citizens. The EU has placed a moratorium on GMOs until they reach strict labeling regulation that will allow its citizens to choose which products they want to purchase. The USA on the other hand is lobbying to have the moratorium ended and USA farmers reimbursed for the monetary loss they suffered due to the ban on the import of their goods into Europe. Now it is up to the WTO to resolve the dispute with regulation. The WTO should make the tracing and labeling of GMOs required for international trade.

The EU wants labeling on GMOs and they have good support for their point of view. There have been multiple experiments that have found detrimental side effects from eating Genetically Modified Organisms, and the cross breeding of GMOs and plants in the natural environment. Arpad Pustzai, a scientist from Scotland did an experiment on genetically modified potatoes where he discovered that they were toxic enough to kill laboratory rats. The USA government disputes the legitimacy of the experiment, but this experiment is at least a good reason to hold a follow up experiment and more research into the side effects of these products. If genetically modified potatoes can kill a rat they are certainly not having beneficial effects on human consumers, and it is the right of the consumer to know what they are purchasing. In 1996 company spliced Brazil nut DNA into soybeans. Later, scientists discovered through animal tests that individuals that are allergic to nuts could go into apoplectic shock and die just from eating the genetically modified soybeans. The soybeans were successfully taken off the market before any consumer deaths were reported, but it was a wake up call to GMO producers. These GMOs can have varied and extremely dangerous side effects. This supports the European Union's demand for tracing and labeling. Without labeling and tracing, a recall would be practically impossible. Opponents of GMOs have also suggested that "Frankenfoods" could also transfer antibiotic resistance and other genes to the bacteria in the human gut, which could have devastating effects on consumer's health. It would not be outlandish for the EU to demand time for further testing before they allow the import of any GMO. The EU is justified in demanding labeling and tracing of GMOs.

Besides the possible detrimental side effects on consumers, growing GMOs releases genetically modified pollen into the environment that will affect natural crops. The Mexican environment ministry announced in 2001 that they had detected DNA from GMOs in naturally growing crops on small farms. This is a legitimate concern because if a currently unforeseen problem creeps up in the future, there may no longer be an uncontaminated supply of crops. Even if the GMO DNA is found to be completely harmless, the natural combination of GMO DNA and natural DNA could have harmful effects. GMO producers can and should solve this problem in some instances by modifying the pollen production of the crops so that they cannot contaminate the natural environment. Perhaps both the United States and the rest of the world should look into this possibility further if GMO production is going to continue. The effect of genetic pollution by GMOs is so broad and unknown that it begs for much more research and planning on the part of GMO producing companies.

On the other hand, the USA is demanding that the EU open up trade for American products, and they even want compensation for the money lost during the moratorium on GMO products. Current WTO regulation does not allow a ban on trade unless a product is possibly dangerous. The USA claims that the FDA has cleared all the products, and is perfectly safe for human consumption, which would make the moratorium illegal. The EU would also be subject to embarrassing and hefty fines by the WTO. The USA also claims that the EU is just banning GMO imports because they are behind on the GMO technology. The trade ban will allow them to catch up without



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