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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

 

Sodruzhestvo GE free company statement

Publication | November 23, 2006 at 9:49

Sodruzhestvo, the biggest soya importer in Russia, which supplies 70% of all soya used in the Russian food and feed industry, has stated that it will turn its new factory currently under construction in Kaliningrad into a GE free zone.

Genetic Engineering and the WTO

Publication | September 28, 2006 at 0:00

Analysis of the Report in the ‘EC-Biotech’ Case:A step backwards for international environmental law, but not the end of GE restrictions

Deadly Subsidies

Publication | May 31, 2006 at 0:00

How government subsidies are destroying the oceans and forests and why the CBD rather than the WTO should stop this peverse use of public money.

GE insect resistant (Bt) maize in Europe:

Publication | May 13, 2006 at 0:00

Maize has been genetically engineered (GE) in a number of ways to produce different types of GE maize, including pharm GE maize types, which produce pharmaceuticals in the plant. However, commercial GE maize consists of only two major types,...

EU and US GE dispute at WTO

Publication | May 12, 2006 at 17:26

Greenpeace briefing paper on the EU-US dispute at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on genetically engineered (GE) organisms

Joint Declaration on Implementing Urgent Global Solutions

Publication | December 11, 2005 at 0:00

Shipbreaking yards provide the last resting place for End of Life Ships. At these yards, ships are scrapped, primarily for their steel content. Ship scrapping, often referred to as ’shipbreaking’, provides employment to thousands of workers in...

WTO Hong Kong 2005 Position

Publication | December 2, 2005 at 0:00

The 6th WTO Ministerial Conference is set to take place in Hong Kong, China from the 13th to 18th of December 2005. After the collapse of the last Ministerial meeting in Cancun in 2003, governments aim to ensure at Hong Kong, that the “Doha...

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...

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