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Growth promoting hormones have been at the centre of a long running trade dispute between the EU and US. The problem arises because of an EU ban on imports of meat from cattle treated with such hormones. Beef producers in the US, Canada and elsewhere commonly treat their cattle with hormone growth promoters; EU policy thus prevents such beef being sold on the European market. While the EU maintains that the policy is based on scientific evidence regarding possible health concerns, the US complained to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the EU ban was no more than a trade barrier disguised as health measures. In February 1998, a WTO Dispute Settlement Body ruled that the EU ban violated international trade rules. The EU now has until 13 May 1999 to comply with its WTO obligations. This POSTnote looks at the scientific basis of the EU policy and examines the options open to the EU in the light of the WTO ruling.

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