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Greenpeace

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MAY 10, 2006
1:05 PM

CONTACT: Greenpeace
Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International WTO expert +49 171 876 5345
Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324
Katharine Mill, Greenpeace EU Unit media officer, +32 496 156 229 (in Brussels)
Eric Gall, Greenpeace EU policy advisor +32 496 161 582 (in Brussels)

 
Right to Remain GE-Free Overrides WTO Ruling
 

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 policy adviser.

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 future.

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

2. http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/WTO_briefing.pdf

3. http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/WTOpapers060418.pdf

4. IP/06/498, Brussels, 12 April 2006, "Commission proposes practical improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented"

Additional documents
Greenpeace briefing on the WTO dispute on GE organisms is available at http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/WTObriefing0602.pdf

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