BRUSSELS / GENEVA - February 3 - Opposition to genetically modified
(GM) foods is likely to increase if the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
rules in favour of a US-led complaint against European GM policy,
Friends of the Earth Europe warned today. A draft WTO ruling is expected
The international environmental group accused the WTO of being
secretive, undemocratic and biased towards business interests, and
charged that it is the wrong institution to settle disputes of this kind.
The United States, Canada and Argentina launched a trade dispute with
the EU through the WTO in May 2003. They have been arguing that Europe's
reluctance to embrace GM foods damaged their farmers and was a barrier
to trade. In line with WTO secrecy, the draft ruling will only be sent
to the countries in the dispute. A final ruling is expected later in the
Friends of the Earth Europe's Trade Co-ordinator Alexandra Wandel said:
"The World Trade Organisation should keep its hands off our food.
Protecting Europe's wildlife, farmers and consumers from the threat of
genetically modified crops is far more important than free trade rules.
The WTO is secretive, undemocratic and unfair. It should not decide what
the public eats and how we protect our environment."
Adrian Bebb, GM Food Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
"Opposition to genetically modified foods is likely to increase if the
WTO decides that European safeguards should be sacrificed to benefit
biotech corporations. The number of bans by countries in Europe against
GM foods is increasing, and the number of regions declaring themselves
GM Free has soared. The WTO, the US administration and biotech firms
should stop their bullying and let Europeans decide what food we eat."
Friends of the Earth has published a fact sheet and briefing on the
dispute today  which highlight:
. Opposition to GM foods and crops in Europe has increased since the
beginning of the trade dispute. There are now over 170 regions and 4,500
smaller areas that want to be GM-free.
. An alternative dispute settlement procedure is needed to solve trade
and environmental conflicts. 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 GM organisms. Unfortunately, the US has refused to
. The first ten years of GM crops have failed to deliver the benefits
promised by the biotech industry and have played no role in tackling
poverty and hunger .
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
Media briefing on the GM trade dispute
Fact sheet on GM food and the WTO
 Executive summary of the report 'Who benefits from GM crops?'