Starting up what’s likely to be an ugly trade tussle, the Bush administration yesterday filed suit at the World Trade Organization against the European Union, challenging E.U. policies that severely restrict the import of genetically modified (GM) crops. U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick contends that the E.U. has in effect instituted a ban on GM products, which has cost the U.S. agriculture industry hundreds of million of dollars in lost export opportunities. Surprised E.U. officials say there is no GM ban, noting that they have approved some GM crop varieties. The E.U. has taken a go-slow approach to genetic engineering, emphasizing the need to protect public health and the environment, while the U.S. has pushed ahead with widespread planting and consumption of GM crops despite a lack of information about how they affect people and ecosystems. Enviros and activists concerned about the WTO’s pervasive influence lamented the U.S. move. “The people eating the food or living in the environment that could be affected must decide domestic policy, not some secretive WTO tribunal of three trade experts,” said Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

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