13 Mar 2012

Kava conference hears European kava ban may be breaking WTO rules

7:22 pm on 13 March 2012

The International Kava Executive Council says legal advice it has obtained shows European countries which have banned the ceremonial drink may be breaking World Trade Organisation rules.

The ban was imposed in 2002 after kava extracts were believed to have caused liver damage and deaths of people in Germany, France and Switzerland.

A four-day International Kava symposium, which started in Vanuatu, is addressing the issue.

The chairperson of the council, Eddie Wilson, says under WTO rules the countries should have shown there was something wrong with the product.

"What has happened is we've so far presented scientific evidence that kava is safe and non-toxic. So far the counties that have imposed the restrictions have not come up with any scientific evidence whatsoever to back up its restrictions that have been imposed."

Eddie Wilson says the lack of trade with the countries that won't accept kava is costing exporters 200 million US dollars a year.