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Figures on stilts, dressed as managers of DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, the world's largest agro-multinational, tag patent clips on plants and seeds around a three-meter globe.

Why is the WTO a problem?

The WTO is a tool of the rich and powerful. By placing trade above all other goals, it threatens our health and the environment. Its more powerful members use arm-twisting tactics to push developing countries into making bad deals. And it's being used by corporate interests and the US to force-feed the world genetically engineered food.

It's controlled by the rich and powerful

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) essentially protects multinational corporations based in the North and acts as a tool of rich and powerful countries - notably the US, the EU, Japan and Canada.

Although the majority of other WTO members are developing countries from Africa, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, many of them have little say in decisions that are taken at WTO meetings. They don't have enough to offer from an economic standpoint to have any real power.

Many of these countries are not even invited to key meetings, which are invitation-only (although no one knows exactly how these invitations are handed out, since this is done in a completely non-transparent way). Find out more about the secretive and undemocratic nature of the WTO and how decisions are taken.

It is strongly influenced by narrow corporate interests

Corporations are driven by the bottom line - profit. Environmental, social and development concerns are distant priorities, and tend to be a corporate focus only when they bring commercial advantage. Given this narrow agenda, the trend of powerful business lobbies influencing government positions at the WTO is worrying.

It is not just in the case of genetically engineered food, where you can see a corporate lobby group influencing government positions. In fact, this is the norm.

The US has also blocked an agreement at the WTO that promised developing countries access to vital medicines - even though WTO member countries already agreed to this in Doha in 2001. The reason is that the agreement on the table threatens to cost its pharmaceutical companies lost revenues in the billions.

And it is not just the US: the European Union (EU) is under great pressure from the agricultural industry to maintain its huge subsidy programme.

The EU is also looking to expand markets for its huge drinking water companies under the WTO agreement on services. Even though freshwater resources are drying up, the EU has been pushing a corporate agenda, not one that works for the environment and development.

The list goes on and on. Where WTO agreements can bring profit to big industry groups, those groups go to work on their governments to make sure that the most advantageous agreement is negotiated for them.

More information

How does the WTO affect you? View the slideshow

The latest updates

 

The NAMA Drama

Publication | December 2, 2005 at 0:00

Improved market access at the cost of the environment: the environmental risks of the NAMA negotiations. The liberalization of markets driven by the World Trade Organization (WTO) makes it difficult at both the national and international levels...

Is the WTO the only way?

Publication | December 2, 2005 at 0:00

This briefing paper addresses the need to secure a safe political and legal space for the environment and outlines a number of alternative approaches, which would enable governments to move the current negotiations on the relationship between...

Trading away our last ancient forests

Publication | December 2, 2005 at 0:00

The threats to forests from trade liberalization under the WTOVast tracts of ancient forest around the world stand on the brink of extinction. 10 million hectares are vanishing every year, or a soccer pitch every two seconds. This updated study...

The US Assault on Biosafety – The WTO dispute on GMOs

Publication | December 2, 2005 at 0:00

On May 13, 2003 the US government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as a number of EU member states’ national bans on GMOs.

Let them eat Democracy

Feature story | October 12, 2005 at 0:00

Dear Pascal, more than a year ago, the US government teamed up with Canada and Argentina to complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the people of Europe.Europeans are simply too democratic, according to the US government, and public...

The US Assault on Biosafety – The WTO dispute on GMOs

Publication | July 28, 2005 at 0:00

On May 13, 2003 the US government filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as a number of EU member states’ national bans on GMOs.

Bush suppresses GE crop warnings

Feature story | October 18, 2004 at 0:00

Monsanto and the US Government have been telling the world that genetically engineered crops pose no contamination threat to natural indigenous species. But Greenpeace has learned from a leaked report that NAFTA disagrees and is recommending...

Where are the Pacific tuna?

Feature story | August 30, 2004 at 0:00

We thought the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery was the last healthy tuna fishery in the world. Despite concerns about over-fishing due to the rapid expansion of the industrial fleets, the conventional wisdom was that the fishery was...

US threatens EU over GE labelling laws

Feature story | November 27, 2003 at 0:00

In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick this week, a collected front of 22 US agribusiness lobby groups and organized farm interests called on Washington to "take every possible action" against coming EU rules on labelling and...

Messages of protest from around the world

Image | September 15, 2003 at 1:00

Messages of protest from around the world which we displayed at the trade meeting in Cancun which was closed to protestors.

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