Free People from Forced Trade

Greenpeace creates

Press release - 28 July, 2003
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 sustainable development."

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