Here’s one unintended consequence of the impending U.S. war against Iraq: The Bush administration has delayed a formal challenge to the European Union’s ban on genetically modified food. Recently, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick blamed the ban for widespread starvation in the developing world and said the administration was considering taking a case against Europe to the World Trade Organization. Now, though, the U.S. has backed off, apparently in an attempt not to alienate the E.U. at a moment of critical international importance. As a senior White House official who asked not to be identified put it, “There is no point in testing Europeans on food while they are being tested on Iraq.” Both sides agree that the ban on GM food will be lifted, but disagree on how fast that should happen and what kinds of controls — such as product-labeling — should be in place before the prohibition ends.

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