October 17, 2003
EU Claims North American Beef Contains Hormones Which Pose Cancer Risk to Human
A long-running dispute over hormones in North American beef heated up again on October 15 when EU said it had permanently banned beef imports that contain growth hormones because there is scientific evidence of a cancer risk to humans.
In a statement released in Washington, the European Union delegation said it wanted the United States and Canada to now lift their trade sanctions against Europe on the beef issue because the new evidence satisfies international trade rules.
But the United States refused to lift the sanctions, saying the EU is still violating a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling.
"We don't understand the EU's claim that it's come into compliance with the WTO ruling against its ban," the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Wednesday. "We have not seen any science-based risk assessment from the EU that would overturn the WTO ruling."
The EU banned beef imports from North America in 1989, but the WTO ruled in 1999 that it had failed to produce solid scientific evidence about the risks.
Immediately after the WTO ruling, the EU began paying sanctions of 116.8 million a year to the United States and a smaller amount to Canada to avoid importing beef from these two countries.
The beef conflict has been a flash point in trade affairs between EU and North America for more than a decade. The U.S. alone at one time shipped 500 million worth of beef to the EU every year.
The EU delegation said it has now produced a thorough risk assessment based on current scientific knowledge, fully respecting its international obligations.
The European Parliament has adopted a new directive that reflects the new evidence, the statement said.
The EU pledged to pursue proper WTO channels to remove the fines.
"Today's move shows that we are fully committed to abiding by our WTO obligations," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. "We have worked hard to get this new legislation in place and I now call on the United States and Canada to lift their trade sanctions against the EU"
EU said its new law bans - the use of 6 hormones in cattle, including the apparent worst offender, oestradiol 17a, which the EU said it considers a "carcinogen", or cancer-causing substance.
The new law says the EU continues to seek scientific evidence on the other five hormones.
Till now, beef industry officials still could not be reached for comment.