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Brussels, 15 October 2003

EU complies with WTO ruling on Hormone beef and calls on USA and Canada to lift trade sanctions

A new EU Directive concerning the prohibition on the use of hormones has entered into force and as a consequence the European Commission is now going to request the USA and Canada to lift their trade sanctions. The Directive implements the recommendations of the WTO ruling condemning the EU for banning the use of certain growth promoting hormones without a a state of the art scientific risk assessment of the risk associated with meat consumption. Following the WTO Appellate Body decision in 1998, the EU carried out a thorough and careful appraisal of the scientific evidence available, on the basis of which the Council and the European Parliament have adopted the new Directive. EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said: "Today's move shows that we are fully committed to abiding by our WTO obligations. 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". Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne said: "The EU has delivered a thorough risk assessment based on current scientific knowledge, fully respecting its international obligations. Public health and consumer protection are the core of our approach to food safety guided by independent scientific advice".

Directive 2003/74/EC implementing the WTO ruling, entered into force on 14 October 2003 and EU Member States must implement it within 12 months of its entry into force.

The US and Canadian sanctions against the EU consists of an increase in tariffs for a selected list of products in the amount of respectively 116.8 million USD and 11.3 million CDN$. Sanctions have been in place since July 1999. The EU will now commence the appropriate procedures at the WTO to get the sanctions lifted. The EU will now inform both the US and Canada of the adoption of the new legislation. The Directive will also be notified to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body.


On 16 January 1998, the WTO Appellate Body issued a report stating that the EU legislation banning the use of certain growth-promoting hormones was not based on a risk assessment as required by the WTO agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures. In particular, the Appellate Body found that the scientific material used by the EU was too general in nature, as it did not specifically evaluate the risks arising from hormone residues in meat products.

In response to that ruling, the EU reviewed the available scientific information and it sought new evidence on the risk to human health of hormone residues in meat products.

In 1999, the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVMPH) concluded that oestradiol 17â should be considered a carcinogen. For the other 5 hormones (testosterone, progesterone, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengestrol acetate), the SCVMPH assessment was that the current state of knowledge does not make it possible to give a quantitative estimate of the risk to consumers. On this basis, in 2000 the Commission made a proposal to amend Directive 96/22/EC concerning the prohibition on the use in stockfarming of certain substances having a hormonal or thyrostatic action and of beta-agonists. On 22 July 2003, the Council approved the European Parliament's amendments at second reading on the above proposal.

The new legislation amends Directive 96/22/EC and confirms the prohibition of substances having a hormonal action for growth promotion in farm animals. Moreover, it drastically reduces the circumstances under which oestradiol 17â may be administered to food producing animals for purposes other growth promotion. Only three uses remain permissible on a transitional basis and under strict veterinary control: treatment - for animal welfare reasons - of foetus maceration/mummification and pyometra in cattle on the one hand, and oestrus induction in cattle, horses, sheep and goats on the other hand. The latter use has to be phased out by September 2006.

As regards the other five hormones, the amended Directive maintains the provisional prohibition, which will apply while the Community seeks more complete scientific information to clarify the present state of knowledge of these substances. The Commission will regularly review scientific information that may become available in the future.

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