WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2014 – The latest round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks concluded in Washington last week with the chief negotiator for the U.S. calling for regulations based on science and his counterpart from the European Union reiterating that the trading bloc is not going to change its position on products made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
In a press conference Friday at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, the negotiators – Dan Mullaney for the U.S. and Ignacio Garcia-Bercero for the EU – said that during the talks, there were no specific discussions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are much more tightly regulated in the EU than in the U.S.
Earlier in the week, during a stakeholder forum, Bill Westman, American Meat Institute’s vice president of international trade, summarized a long list of U.S. industry concerns, including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures like EU’s ban on U.S. beef raised with growth-promoting hormones and poultry treated with chlorine as an anti-microbial wash, a commonly practice in the United States.
Mullaney said the U.S. has no interest in how the EU establishes domestic but added, “just don’t restrict trade with unscientific measures.”
Regarding GMOs, Garcia-Bercero repeated the EU position – that “individual applications” of GMOs could be discussed, but the trading bloc would not be willing to change its regulatory structure.
The two negotiators said the latest round of talks – the seventh round since they began in July 2013 – focused on regulatory issues.
“The regulatory pillar of T-TIP is one that has the potential to deliver the most benefits, but it’s also the most challenging,” Garcia-Bercero said.
“We’re at the phase in negotiations in which teams have progressed from discussions of general approaches to reviewing many proposals and text language,” Mullaney said, noting that many of the proposals are complex.
Mullaney said there are proposed agreements on the table for regulations in agriculture. The goal, he said, remains “to avoid unnecessary costs or burdens in a way that maintains the highest level of protection for consumers.” For food safety regulations, Mullaney said, “If regulators on one side of the Atlantic can agree to rely on inspections performed by the other side,” regulators, companies and consumers will benefit.
There are 24 different negotiating groups within T-TIP and Mullaney said “most have textual proposals on the table.”
The issue of GMOs is proving to among the most intractable during the T-TIP talks. According to an EU document on T-TIP regulatory issues published in September 2013, EU law already allows some GMOs to be sold in the EU, “provided they have been approved for use either as food, animal feed or for sowing as crops.”
Applications are assessed by the European Food Safety Authority and then presented to EU member states which make the decision on whether or not to approve them. So far, 52 GMOs have been authorized, according to the commission.
“Neither the safety assessment that EFSA carries out before any GMO is approved nor the procedures that farmers, seed companies and traders have to follow when marketing those products will be affected by the negotiations,” the EU document noted.
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