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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

 

WTO free zone

Feature story | July 28, 2003 at 0:00

Greenpeace cordoned off the UN building in Montreal, to protect it from the US attack on consumers, farmers and the environment. Activists at the Greenpeace checkpoint were on the lookout for representatives of the US administration and Canadian...

Genetically engineered food by Bush & Co

Image | July 23, 2003 at 1:00

Genetically engineered food by Bush & Co. E-card designed by Mark Fiore.

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam

Image | July 21, 2003 at 1:00

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam dump GE maize on other volunteers representing consumers in straitjackets, suffocating their demand for the right to say no GE food.

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam

Image | July 21, 2003 at 1:00

Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam dump GE maize on other volunteers representing consumers in straitjackets, suffocating their demand for the right to say no GE food.

Italian seeds contaminated with GE maize

Feature story | July 10, 2003 at 0:00

Over 100 farmers in Northern Italy have discovered that non-genetically engineered (GE) maize seeds that they bought and planted, were in fact contaminated by GE maize. The fact that cases like this are happening on a regular basis, raises...

EU, don't cave in to US GMO agenda!

Feature story | July 7, 2003 at 0:00

We gave two sacks of soy contaminated with Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE) varieties to Pascal Lamy (EU Trade Commissioner) and asked him to send them back to his US counterpart, Robert Zoellick. The right to say no to genetically...

Tougher EU GMO legislation

Feature story | July 2, 2003 at 0:00

The European Parliament has adopted the world's toughest rules on the labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), despite intensified pressure from the US and the GE industry. The new rules bring great news for EU consumers, farmers and...

The US War on Biosafety - Renewed Aggression by a Rogue State

Publication | June 24, 2003 at 0:00

On May 13, 2003 the US government filed a formal complaint in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s de facto moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The WTO challenge was launched despite the fact that the...

Who rules the G8? Right

Image | June 2, 2003 at 1:00

Who rules the G8? Right, end of photo op, let's go boys...

Who rules the G8?

Feature story | June 2, 2003 at 0:00

As the world's richest and most powerful nations meet in France this week, the questions they should be asking are the ones which matter most: who rules our world? What forces are we going to allow to shape our future?

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