EU Ends Hormone Beef Dispute with Canada, US

March 14, 2012 Updated: March 14, 2012

The European Parliament has come to an agreement to end a decades-old ban on importing beef from Canada and the United States.

In 1988, the European Union banned imports of beef from cattle treated with growth hormones. The U.S. and Canada then placed over $128 million in sanctions on several types of EU food products, including Roquefort cheese, chocolate, juices, jams, and fresh truffles, but later rescinded those duties.

The retaliatory duties imposed on the EU by Canada and the U.S. “hampered EU exports and led to a loss of market share for EU producers,” according to a statement from the 27-nation bloc.

Announced Wednesday, the agreement comes after years of WTO dispute consultations, settlement panels, arbitration proceedings, and formal appeals by the two countries.

The EU had maintained that there are possible health risks for humans connected to consuming hormone-treated meat—a position that European consumers have largely supported.

Canada and the U.S. argued that the body of scientific evidence does not indicate any health risks and questioned the EU’s risk assessments.

Under the new agreement, the EU will keep its ban on hormone-treated beef products but will get high-quality untreated beef from Canada and the U.S. instead, the statement said.

“This is a win-win resolution for the EU. Parliament has taken a step that will enable the EU agricultural industry to plan ahead again and that will strengthen transatlantic trade links,” rapporteur Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl said in a statement.

The EU ban was based related to concerns over six hormones that were added to the vast majority of North American beef.