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US House passes bill supporting WTO biotech case

(Friday, June 13, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters, 06/10/03: The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation expressing support for the Bush administration's filing of a World Trade Organization complaint against the EU's policy on approving new genetically modified products.

The symbolic measure, which will have no formal bearing on the WTO case, was opposed by some House members who argued the United States should not encourage the WTO to overturn any country's food safety laws. It was approved on a vote of 339 to 80.

Proponents of the legislation, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican from Illinois, said the WTO complaint would help "end the European Union's protectionist and discriminatory trade practices of the past five years regarding agriculture biotechnology."

But Rep. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said the measure "goes to the fundamental issues of sovereignty and of shifting power from democratically determined public health laws and rules to corporate interests." Brown has been a vocal opponent of trade legislation.

U.S. corn farmers lose an estimated $300 million in sales to the EU because European countries have blocked new biotech corn varieties. Last month, the United States announced it intends to seek a WTO ruling overturning the EU's moratorium on new biotech goods unless there it quickly abandoned the policy.