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Greenpeace volunteers dressed as Uncle Sam dump GE maize on other volunteers representing consumers in straitjackets, suffocating their demand for the right to say no GE food.

How does the WTO affect you?

Global trade affects many aspects of life. It can impact everything from the environment to your health and the well-being of people around the world. At the next WTO meeting in Cancun, it is not just trade that is on the agenda but environment and human health. The results will affect everyone.

Why you should care about the WTO and its rules on trade

Governments attending the WTO meeting in Cancun, Mexico from 10-14 September, 2003 will be discussing how to make sure that poorer countries have access to medicines and vaccines. They will discuss the relationship between trade rules and environmental agreements, which could end up making trade rules more important than protecting the environment. View the slideshow

If you care about the environment...

...then you will be concerned that the WTO puts trade on the highest pedestal - before the environment

As countries compete to trade more, production and the use of natural resources is spiralling in one direction - up. Resources are being used up faster than they can be replenished. The oceans are being emptied of fish, ancient forests are being destroyed, and river basins are being sold off one by one to private drinking water companies.

Huge oil, gas, mining, pharmaceutical and agri-business multinationals keep expanding their operations at all costs, creating more and more pollution. Their sole goal - to make money, not to take care of our planet and health, now or for future generations.

In addition to this, the WTO is now threatening crucial environmental agreements, for example the first legally binding global agreement that allows countries to reject GMOs, the Biosafety Protocol. The Protocol is being undermined by trade rules and its provisions considered trade barriers.

Trade rules must not be allowed to take priority over environmental protection.

If you don't want to eat genetically engineered (GE) food…

…then you will want to stop the US from using the WTO as a weapon to force-feed the world GE food.

We have a right to know what we are eating and to say no to GE food. But from field to fork, the food we eat and the seeds we plant in our fields are being targeted by the GE industry. It is attempting a corporate take-over of the entire food chain.

Countries should not be bullied into accepting GE food, GE seeds or GE crops. Governments must feel free to use the strictest possible standards to regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Science has not proved that GMOs are safe to eat or safe for the environment.

The EU has just adopted the world's strictest rules on GMOs. But backed by the GE industry, the US is using the WTO to challenge the EU's current regulations on GMOs. The ultimate goal - to force GE food on the EU and the rest of the world. What happens now will determine whether many countries and consumers will be forced to eat GE food. Find out more.

If you don't think GE crops should be forced on farmers…

…then you will be concerned by the GE contamination of Mexican maize.

Mexico is the centre of origin of maize diversity and home to many traditional maize varieties in the world. Mexican farmers who fought hard to protect their valuable crop found themselves under threat from GE maize. It was imported from the US and contaminated their crops. As a result, maize, one of the world's most important staple foods is under threat.

This case demonstrates that genetic engineering is a giant experiment with nature that cannot be controlled. Genetic pollution cannot be contained and will not disappear by itself - it will spread. Maize for example, sheds large quantities of pollen that can be carried by bees or the wind.

The Biosafety Protocol recognizes the right of countries to reject GMOs based on the 'precautionary principle.' This comon sense rule means that as long as there are doubts about the environmental safety of GMOs, then countries can reject them. Precaution should come before profit. This is especially important in of centres of diversity of staple foods like maize. But the Biosafety Protocol and precautionary principle are being threatened by the WTO.

If you think everyone has the right to be free of poverty…

…then you will feel outraged that the WTO works against poorer nations.

The WTO has failed to deliver on agreements to give developing countries access to life-saving medicines.

Governments tried to present the WTO meeting held in Doha in November 2001 as a "development" round that would deliver economic benefits to developing countries in Africa, Asia, the South Pacific and Latin America. They promised developing countries greater access to life-saving medicines, as well as greater access to markets for their agricultural goods (anything from produce to cotton, coffee and other crops that form a big part of some developing country economies).

But the promises made in Doha have not been kept. Developing countries have seen no sign of the medicines - the US is blocking the agreement. This underlines the fact that the WTO is in essence a tool of rich and powerful countries - notably the US, the EU, Japan and Canada - and the powerful corporate lobbies that pull their strings.

If you want corporations to be held accountable for their actions…

…then you will be against the WTO extending its power and the power of the corporations driving it, into new areas.

A new investment agreement tabled for discussion at the WTO will extend both the power of the WTO and the corporations that drive it. These corporations will not be held accountable for their actions.


View the slideshow

The latest updates


Sodruzhestvo GE free company statement

Publication | 23 November, 2006 at 10:49

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.

Deadly Subsidies

Publication | 31 May, 2006 at 2:00

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.

Joint Declaration on Implementing Urgent Global Solutions

Publication | 11 December, 2005 at 1:00

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 | 2 December, 2005 at 1:00

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 | 2 December, 2005 at 1:00

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...

Trading away our last ancient forests

Publication | 2 December, 2005 at 1:00

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...

Is the WTO the only way?

Publication | 2 December, 2005 at 1:00

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...

Where are the Pacific tuna?

Feature story | 30 August, 2004 at 2:00

We thought the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery was the last healthy tuna fishery in the world. Despite concerns about over-fishing due to the rapid expansion of the industrial fleets, the conventional wisdom was that the fishery was...

Maize Under Threat - GE Maize Contamination in Mexico

Publication | 18 August, 2003 at 2:00

Hands Off Our Maize Briefing Package.

Monsanto's seeds of destruction

Feature story | 18 August, 2003 at 2:00

Mexicans are being forced to swallow Monsanto's seeds of destruction, while back in the US, Monsanto is not allowed to grow its genetically engineered (GE) cotton for fear of GE contamination. To expose this double standard our activists blocked...

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