Friends of the Earth International

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 8, 2006
8:29 AM

CONTACT: Friends of the Earth International
Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe WTO expert, +49 172 748 3953 Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert, +49 1609 490 1163

 
Trade War on GMOs: Europe Must Fight WTO Ruling
Friends of the Earth calls for a new world trade system
 

BRUSSELS / GENEVA - February 8 - Friends of the Earth Europe today urged the European Union to take the global lead and work for a new international system that, in contrast to World Trade Organisation (WTO), prioritises human health and environmental safety over free trade rules.

The call comes following yesterdays draft ruling by the WTO in Geneva that Europe's precautionary stance on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops "violates" trade rules.

The WTO believes that national safety bans on GM products and Europe's de facto moratorium on new GM foods between 1999 and 2004 were barriers to trade.

The ruling on the transatlantic trade dispute over GM foods was sent to the EU on one side, and to the United States, Canada and Argentina on the other.

Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe's Trade Co-ordinator in Brussels, said: "Europe should fight this decision and lead the calls for a new global trading system that protects people and the environment from the worst excesses of industry. The WTO undermines democracy and puts business interests before the welfare of the public. It should not be allowed to rule on what we eat or what our farmers grow."

Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "The WTO has bluntly ruled that European safeguards should be sacrificed to benefit biotech corporations. This will backfire and lead to even greater opposition to genetically modified food and crops. Consumers worldwide will not be bullied into eating GM foods."

Wandel noted: "The WTO is keeping its draft ruling secret. This sums up everything that is wrong with the WTO. It is secretive, undemocratic and biased towards business interests. The WTO should be the last institution to decide what people eat and grow in the fields."

In its defence during the WTO dispute the EU Commission had questioned whether the WTO was the right place to solve such disputes. "There is a serious question as to whether the WTO is the appropriate international forum for resolving all the GMO issues that the Complainants have raised in these case," it said. [1]

Friends of the Earth believes that an alternative dispute settlement procedure is needed to solve trade and environmental conflicts and that international environment agreements need to be strengthened. This could be the International Court of Justice or the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Additionally, the UN Biosafety Protocol is an international agreement already in place that deals with trade in GMOs. [2]

Two new opinion polls highlighted again Europeans' opposition to GM foods. A French poll by BVA reports that 78% of French people want a temporary ban on GM crops. Similarly a Europe-wide poll published yesterday by the European Food Safety Authority states that 62% of Europeans are worried about GM products in food. [3]

An international campaign against the WTO dispute called "Bite-back - WTO: Hands off our food!" - is supported by 750 organisations representing some 60 million people (see www.bite-back.org). The coalition states that the industry-friendly WTO is not the right place to decide what food Europeans should eat.

The "Bite Back" citizens' objection was initiated by Friends of the Earth International with the support of consumer, development and farmers' groups, trade unions, research institutes and citizens from over 100 countries.

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] From the EU 19 July 2004 written submission, available also here: http://www.foeeurope.org/biteback/download/Second_EU_Submission_to_WTO.pdf

[2] Is the WTO the only way? Safeguarding Multilateral Environmental Agreements from international trade rules and settling trade and environment disputes outside the WTO. A briefing paper by Adelphi Consult, Friends of the Earth Europe and Greenpeace. Available at http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2005/alternatives_wto.pdf

[3] See http://www.efsa.eu.int and http://www.agirpourlenvironnement.org

BACKGROUND DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE:

A special media briefing on the GM trade dispute is available at : http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_and_WTO_interim_briefing_Feb2006.pdf

A fact sheet on GMOs and the WTO is available at:
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_and_WTO_QA_Feb2006.pdf

Report: Who benefits from GM crops? (January 2006) is available at: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/who_benefits_from_gm_crops_Jan_2006.pdf

EN FRANCAIS:

Briefing pour la presse sur le conflit commercial transatlantique sur les aliments modifiés génétiquement: www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_et_WTO_briefing_intermediaire_Feb2006_FR.pdf

Les OGM en Europe et l'OMC - Questions réponses
www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/GMO_et_WTO_QR_Feb2006_FR.pdf

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