Greenpeace activists dressed as security guards confiscate a bag of genetically modified organisms from 'George Bush'.
The Bush Administration, and the transnational genetic
engineering and agro-chemical industries that back Bush, are using
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to try and force open new
markets for their products. These 'new frontiers' are in Asia,
Latin America and Africa.
The real battle has just begun. The US, supported by Canada and
Argentina, launched a pre-emptive strike by filing a complaint in
the WTO against the European Union's new comprehensive GMO
labelling laws. With this complaint, the US also targets the global
agreement that effectively secures the right of countries to ban or
severely restrict imports and the use of GMOs - the Biosafety
The Biosafety Protocol enables governments in the South to
resist political coercion on the basis of the precautionary
principle. (1) Applying this rule, countries can ensure that the
protection of biosafety and biodiversity (particularly agricultural
biodiversity), comes before the expansion of corporate agribusiness
and the vicious cycle of dependency that this involves.
But over the last decade the US, Canada and Argentina have tried
desperately to prevent the Biosafety Protocol from becoming a
reality. The Protocol was agreed in the UN building in Montreal and
is due to come into effect on the first day of the WTO meeting in
Cancun, on 11 September, 2003.
Eric Darier, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner in Canada
said "The presence of the WTO in Montreal for this informal
mini-ministerial is a bad omen for people and the environment. It
is the duty of all countries to ensure that the already
well-established major international agreements to protect people
and the environment do not become casualties of a corporate driven
agenda pushed by the WTO which promotes trade at any cost over
Sebastien Risso, Greenpeace EU advisor for trade issues in
Montreal said, "The WTO is increasingly proving to be an
undemocratic and non-transparent political tool used by big
business to erode the environment, public health and consumer
rights. Given the clear WTO bias, which favours trade
liberalisation over other legitimate policy goals, the WTO is now
facing a severe legitimacy crisis and therefore must be prevented
from further expanding its mandate."
"What is needed now is a thorough assessment of the rules
governing the global trade system, and substantial reform, which
frees people from forced trade. The world needs a strong
multilateral system in which peace and sustainability hold primacy
over narrow corporate interest and national egoism,"
(1) Where there is the potential for serious or irreversible
threats to health and the environment, action can be taken on the
basis of the precautionary principle to avoid such threats, even
where definite proof of harm does not yet exist. Precisely the case
of genetic engineering that involves such broad threats and whose
harmful impacts could be severe and irreversible. Find out more