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Friends of the Earth International

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 3, 2006
7:26 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 GM food expert, +49 1609 490 1163

 
Draft Ruling Imminent on EU-US Biotech Trade Dispute.
WTO hands off our food
 

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 next week.

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 year.

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 [1] 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 sign it.

. 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 [2].

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]Media briefing on the GM trade dispute

Fact sheet on GM food and the WTO

[2] Executive summary of the report 'Who benefits from GM crops?'

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