26 April 1996

WTO to look at US hormone challenge

THE World Trade Organisation has agreed to set up a panel of independent trade specialists to look into the US challenge against the EU import ban of hormone-treated beef.

The WTOs dispute settlement body in Geneva agreed this week to set up a panel of three experts to look at the effects of trade posed by the ban.

A WTO spokeswoman said the panel, which has been requested by the US, would have the power to call for further scientific advice on the advantages and disadvantages of using hormones.

Leading American farmers this week expressed their deep frustration at the current stalemate but were confident of winning the legal arguments. Dean Kleckner, president of the American Farm Bureau, said there was no scientific evidence that the use of hormones caused livestock any harm. Mr Kleckner, who farms livestock in Ohio, said Europes argument in banning hormone-treated beef was solely due to consumer concerns.

But he acknowledged that the ongoing BSE-scare, which has severely damaged consumer concerns, would not make their legal fight any easier.

"It is regrettable from a US point of view that the hormone issue is being decided when BSE has such a high profile. It is not helping our situation," he said.

The US stance won support from the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) Australian president Graham Blight, who said Europes argument had been emotionally clouded by consumers.

"It is one area where the emotional argument has overcome the logic of science," he added. &#42