BRUSSELS / GENEVA - August 26 - Friends of the Earth revealed today that scientists have been called by the World Trade Organisation to debate the safety of Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops .
This move is a blow to the Bush Administration - which fought to stop any debate over scientific safety of GM and means that the outcome of the US-Europe trade dispute on GM foods is substantially delayed and will not be known before the US presidential election. 
The United States, Canada and Argentina started proceedings last year in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over Europe's position on GM foods. The WTO set up a three-person Panel to meet in secret to decide on the case.
In recent months the US Government has been fighting to prevent the Panel from calling in scientists and has argued their case on narrow trade rules. The European Union however has questioned whether the WTO is the appropriate place to settle such disputes and has been pushing for scientists to be involved in the debate. In a previous case over the use of beef hormones the scientific debate lasted for over 600 days.
In May this year campaigners delivered a petition to the WTO signed by more than 100,000 citizens from 90 countries and more than 544 organisations representing 48 million people. The signatories, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and French small farmers' leader Jose Bové, have called on the WTO not to undermine the sovereign right of any country to protect its citizens and the environment from GM foods and crops. 
Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said:
"The first round of this dispute may have gone to Europe but the long term implications of this case could be devastating for everyone. The World Trade Organisation is a secretive and undemocratic organisation and should not be deciding what we eat. The long term effects of GM foods and crops are unknown. Every country should have the right to put public safety before the economic might of the biotechnology industry."
 The WTO Panel has decided that the case raises scientific and technical issues on which the Panel might benefit from expert advice. Scientists will now be appointed by the WTO to prepare an advisory report in writing from an expert review group.
 The US had argued in its WTO submission 'Comments on the EC's final position whether to seek scientific advice', that there is 'no need or value in consulting experts'. More information at http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/US_comments_whether_seek_expert_advice.pdf
 visit www.bite-back.org for more information about the petition to the WTO signed by more than 100,000 citizens from 90 countries and more than 544 organisations representing 48 million people.