BRUSSELS - May 10 -
Greenpeace was dismissive of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling,
due to be released today, on a US-sponsored case which was attempting
to force EU countries to accept genetically engineered (GE) organisms,
in spite of overwhelming public opposition in Europe.
Greenpeace called the WTO 'unqualified' to deal with issues around GE
organisms and rejected the verdict of the US-driven court case backed
by Canada and Argentina which was attempting to use the WTO to force GE
organisms onto the EU. (1)
"All this verdict proves is that the WTO is unqualified to deal with
complex scientific and environmental issues, as it puts trade interests
above all others. Its only effect has been to reinforce the
determination of EU countries to resist bullying by pro-GE governments
and to say no to GE crops and food," said Eric Gall, Greenpeace EU
Despite initial US claims of victory, the interim ruling showed that
the WTO panel rejected many of the US arguments, and only gave the EU a
'slap on the wrist' for taking too much time to apply its own
legislation. The panel came out against national bans on GE, but did
concede that national bans are justifiable, provided a risk assessment
is conducted (2).
"The US claims of victory are exaggerated, and will not deter the
increasing number of countries in the EU and around the world which act
to stop the release of GE organisms," said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace
International WTO expert. "While the WTO ruling fails to uphold the
precautionary principle, which should be the basis of GE organism
policies globally, it does affirm that governments can continue to ban
GE organisms if they so wish."
"There are now 12 GE organism bans in seven EU countries, more than in
2003 when the US presented its case against the EU to the WTO. Only
last week, Poland banned the cultivation of genetically engineered
crops; a slap in the face to US agro-chemical giants, as Poland is the
second biggest agricultural food basket in the EU" said Eric Gall
Greenpeace EU policy adviser.
Documents submitted by the EU to the WTO reveal that the Commission
defended the "large areas of uncertainty" regarding the impact of GE
organisms on health and the environment, and that "some issues have not
yet been studied at all" (3). On 12 April, the Commission announced
that it was taking steps to improve the risk assessment of GE
organisms; current procedures are deemed insufficient and untransparent
by most European governments (4).
Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses
non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental
problems, and to drive solutions essential to a green and peaceful
NOTES TO EDITOR:
1. In August 2003, the US, backed by Canada and Argentina took the EU to the WTO for suspending approvals for biotech products, and for six EU member states' implementing national bans on EU-approved GE organisms.
The EU Commission tried to use the WTO case to force five European countries (Greece, France, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany) attacked by the US to lift their national bans (Italy, the sixth, lifted its ban two years ago).
When the EU Commission put its proposal to lift the bans to a vote at the EU Council of Environment Ministers on 24 June 2005, 22 countries out of 25 voted against the Commission, concluding that the bans were justified and should remain. This forced the EU Commission to withdraw its proposals.
Greenpeace briefing on national safeguard clauses ('bans'): http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/NationalBans0507.pdf
4. IP/06/498, Brussels, 12 April 2006, "Commission proposes practical improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented"
Greenpeace briefing on the WTO dispute on GE organisms is available at http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/WTObriefing0602.pdf