BRUSSELS HAS launched a formal challenge against more than $100m (£54m) worth of sanctions, imposed by the USA and Canada in response to the EU‘s long-standing ban on imports of hormone-reared beef.

This import ban was ruled illegal by the World Trade Organisation in 1998 because it was not based on sound science.

After the ruling, the USA raised import tariffs to the tune of $117m on a range of EU meats, dairy products and fruit juices, while Canada introduced duties to the value of Can$11m.

But since then, the EU has conducted a full scientific risk assessment into the effects of hormone residues in beef, concluding that the ban on the six substances in question is entirely justified.

A new EU Hormones Directive formalising this stance came into force on Oct 14.

On Oct 27 the EU notified the WTO that it was now respecting the 1998 ruling, since its ban was based on sound science.

“There is no reason why European companies should continue to be targeted by sanctions when they export to the United States and Canada,” said EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy.

“The EU ban on certain growth promoting hormones is now in full respect of our international obligations.”

The EU Commission has already asked the USA and Canada to lift their sanctions, but so far they have refused.

In response the EU this week (w/e Nov 12) initiated the disputes procedure through the WTO in Geneva by requesting formal consultations with the USA and Canada.

These will last for 60 days, after which the commission can request a WTO disputes settlement panel be set up to make a final judgement.

This could take another eight months.