WTO = World Transgenic Order

WTO wants to straightjacket our right to say no to GMOs

Feature story - 21 July, 2003
Greenpeace activists replaced the World Trade Organisation (WTO) sign at its headquarters in Geneva with a new logo, "World Transgenic Order", denouncing the WTO for promoting the corporate interests of the genetic engineering (GE) industry.

Greenpeace activists replaced the World Trade Organisation (WTO) sign at its headquarters in Geneva with a new logo,

At the same time, Greenpeace activists representing consumers were shoved into straitjackets by Uncle Sam, who dumped genetically engineered (GE) maize on them. This is exactly what the US would like to do - dump GE food on the world.

The right of consumers to say no to GE food is under threat from the US, heavily influenced by its GE industry. The US is trying to use the WTO to challenge the European Union's ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The EU has also recently adopted the strictest GMO regulations in the world.

The US challenge amounts to a scare tactic to "encourage" countries to open their markets to genetically engineered (GE) food. Many countries fear that if they reject GMOs, they will be met with huge trade sanctions (which could be worth hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars) in the WTO.

The WTO is an inappropriate and incompetent body to deal with environmental issues such as GMOs, that can have a major impact on the environment and public health.

It is also interesting that the US chose to file the WTO complaint right before the ratification of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety ("Biosafety Protocol"). It is widely believed that the Biosafety Protocol is the ultimate target of the complaint.

Under the Biosafety Protocol, the majority of countries now commit to the "precautionary principle", on the basis of which they can regulate and reject GMOs on the ground that they may pose a threat to the environment and public health.

But with the US complaint against the EU, many countries may be afraid to implement the Biosafety Protocol rules. As a result, the Biosafety Protocol could be less powerful at best, and at worst, irrelevant.

Bruno Heinzer, Greenpeace GE Campaigner in Switzerland said "The internationally endorsed precautionary principle must not be over-ruled at the expense of promoting corporate interest and survival of the GE industry, in serious trouble because of the spreading market rejection of GE products. It is vital that the world governments secure their ability to adopt restrictions on GMOs, including introduction of bans, labelling systems and measures to eliminate genetic contamination."