"GMO legislation stands in way of WTO membership"

Serbia, Bosnia and Belarus are the only countries in Europe that have not joined World Trade Organization (WTO), the Beta agency is reporting.

Izvor: Beta

The main reason, it added, is "the refusal to adopt a new law on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)."

Removing "the open ban on trade of genetically modified products" is a condition for joining both WTO and the EU - "while cultivation could be banned" said a source wit the Ministry of Trade.

It has also been said during a meeting dedicated to the importance of WTO membership for EU accession that Serbia "has ways to protect itself from an influx of GM products through various measures, such as complex registration procedures."

The ministry source was further quoted as saying that Serbia "may introduce a high level of protection, like the EU, where only one GM crop is grown, in only five countries, while 19 countries have banned cultivation, 17 of whom on their whole territory."

Asked whether it is possible that some WTO member, for whom GMO trade is significant, will ask Serbia to lower its standards of protection, the source said, "Serbia as a candidate country for EU membership could also receive assistance from Brussels to resolve that problem."

The same source went on to say that it remains for Serbia to complete negotiations with Ukraine and Brazil, something that is likely to be done without any major problems, whereas many complex questions had been resolved in negotiations with the U.S. - "but (Serbia's) adoption of the law on GMOs is important for that country."

"Accession to WTO is important to attract investors because it provides predictability and efficient way of resolving disputes, and is a key element for Chapter 30 in EU membership negotiations, which concern international economic relations," Beta quoted representatives of the ISAC Fund, who will organize a conference in Belgrade on Serbia's accession to WTO and the negotiation process with the EU.

The report from the screening for Chapter 30 is not yet publicly available, "and a decision has not been made whether a condition will be set for its opening."

The ISAC Fund said that "once a country joins WTO there is not much work to be done on this chapter, since the key elements of the legislation applied by the EU are adopted by becoming a (WTO) member."

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