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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

 

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Image | 21 October, 2002 at 1:00

Police guards and barbed wire keep out public opinion while the GE seed industry plots the contamination of European land inside.

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Image | 25 August, 2002 at 1:00

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Publication | 24 August, 2002 at 0:00

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Greenpeace Earth Summit website.

Image | 1 March, 2002 at 1:00

Greenpeace Earth Summit website.

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