As Government Ministers sat down in a hotel in Montreal today to further the World Trade Organisation's attempts to further undermine international agreements which protect people and the environment, Greenpeace cordoned off the UN building elsewhere in the city, to protect it from infiltration by the trade agenda. The checkpoint was designed to identify those, in particular representatives of the US administration and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who are trying to undermine any nation's right to choose sustainable development over trade at any cost.
In January 2000, the text of the Biosafety Protocol, which
effectively secures the right of countries to ban or severely
restrict imports and the use of GMOs, was agreed in the UN building
in Montreal. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is the first
legally binding global agreement dealing with GMOs. Palau became
the 50th country to ratify on June 13, 2003. The Protocol will come
into effect on September 11, 2003.
"The presence of the WTO in Montreal for this informal
mini-ministerial is a bad omen for people and the environment,"
said Eric Darier, Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner in
Canada. "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
A recent US legal challenge against the EU under the WTO remit,
supported by Canada and Argentina, aims to undermine the
incorporation of the precautionary approach in the Biosafety
Protocol, which effectively secures the right of countries to ban
or severely restrict imports and the use of GMOs on the basis of
the precautionary principle. This principle is a general rule used
where there is the potential for serious or irreversible threats to
health and the environment and requires action to be taken to avoid
such threats even where definite proof of harm does not yet exist.
Because the threats of genetic engineering are so broad, and
harmful impacts could be severe and irreversible, the precautionary
principle must be strictly applied.
The Bush Administration, and the transnational genetic
engineering and agro-chemical industries that back George W Bush,
are seeking to use the WTO to force open new markets for their
products. These 'new frontiers' are in Asia, Latin America and
Africa. As a legally binding multilateral instrument, the Biosafety
Protocol enables governments in the South to resist this political
coercion and ensure that the protection of biosafety and
biodiversity - particularly agricultural biodiversity - takes
precedence over the expansion of corporate agribusiness and the
vicious cycle of dependency that this involves.
"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 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," said Sebastien Risso, Greenpeace EU
advisor for trade issues in Montreal.
VVPR info: Photos available: Greenpeace International Photo Desk, tel.+31 20 5249580