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Serbia May Lift Blanket Ban on Gene-Altered Foods to Join WTO

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Serbia may replace its import ban on genetically modified foods with European Union-style restrictions on the “unpopular products” as it seeks to join the World Trade Organization without angering consumers.

The Balkan country was waited to join the WTO more than eight years, with its blanket ban on gene-altered products acting as a key obstacle to entry, Deputy Trade Minister Bojana Todorovic told a business forum in Belgrade today. Serbia needs to comply with WTO rules that forbid an outright ban on any product without having scientific proof it’s unsafe or “risk isolation from the essential trade organization,” she said.

“Serbia can solve this by adopting regulations like those in the EU where such products are also very unpopular and need lengthy certification procedures and strict labeling,” Todorovic said. “We need to harmonize our laws with the EU anyway, so if we deal with this the way the EU does, we’ll stay protected.”

Serbia has completed multilateral talks for WTO membership and 12 bilateral agreements with members that required them, while it still needs to conclude trade arrangements with the U.S., Ukraine, Brazil, India and the Dominican Republic.

The government hopes to complete them this year, including with Ukraine, which made an “incredibly huge request” for having free access to the Serbian market for its steel, agriculture and other products, Todorovic said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Misha Savic in Belgrade at msavic2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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