The Final Report of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Panel in the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) approvals dispute, pitting the U.S., Canada and Argentina, on one hand, against the European Union (EU) on the other, is out.

As expected, the report finds the EU in violation of WTO rules, for imposing a moratorium in 1998 on all GMO products. Europe purports to have lifted the moratorium in 2004, but the WTO Panel thinks otherwise. “…the panel determined that it could not rule whether the EU had abandoned its de facto moratorium on approvals of GMOs after August 2003,” notes the report.

Its instructive to mention that there is no ambiguity in this report to warrant discretionary interpretation by the EU. The report is clear that “the EU must bring its practices into compliance with WTO rules if and to the extent that a moratorium still exists.”

Europes main argument throughout the arbitration process has been that GMOs pose risk to human health and the environment.

The WTO ruling addresses this issue conclusively. “…Member State measures are not justified by the precautionary principle, which under WTO rules permits Members to impose measures so long as relevant scientific evidence is insufficient,” notes the report.

“The Complainants have established . . . that [the] safeguard measure[s were] imposed in respect of a situation where relevant scientific evidence [about the safety of GMO products] was not insufficient,” adds the report.

“As the EU’s own scientific committees reviewed and gave the green light for these applications, there is nothing “insufficient” about the scientific evidence.” In fact, the WTO panel alludes to the fact that the EU is just playing politics in the guise of “protecting its people from the harmful effects of GMOs when it states that “…….a politically-motivated ban on GMO approvals, whether in the EU or elsewhere, cannot be maintained consistent with WTO obligations.”

So, what next for Europe in the face of damning WTO ruling that finds it culpable of unlawfully banning GMOs from its soil? The only logical thing for the EU to do is to fulfill its obligations to WTO, by according the biotech industry unfettered access to its markets. The current situation where some biotech products applications have been pending for more than ten years is unacceptable.

The U.S. Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, is right when she appeals to Europe to stop stonewalling on biotech products licensing.

“I urge the EU to fully comply with its WTO obligations, and consider all outstanding biotech product applications, and evaluate their scientific merits in accordance with the EUs own laws, without undue delay,” says Schwab, in a statement.

It should not take the U.S. and other countries currently growing biotech crops to prod the EU to abide by the WTO ruling. The EU must prove to the rest of the world that it upholds international trade laws. Failure to do so will only erode its credibility as a responsible economic bloc.

The EU must remember that its stance on GMOs hurts the whole world, and more so developing countries. Europe has always maintained that it would not tolerate agricultural products from developing countries that grow GMOs. These countries are, therefore, technically barred from growing genetically modified crops, lest they lose their European markets. What is the rationale of preventing developing countries from exploring the enormous potential inherent in modern agricultural biotechnology?