Exposing the Hidden US Agenda on GMOs: War on Biosafety and the South

Press release - 24 June, 2003
The international environmental organisation Greenpeace today released a report accusing the US government of using the WTO as a weapon to bully developing countries into accepting genetically engineered (GE) crops and food. According to Greenpeace, the US is engaged in a "global war on biosafety and the South" in the interests of a desperate GE industry

"The US government's renewed aggression against GMO restrictions is part of the drive to impose its own sub-standards on the rest of the world. The ultimate aim is to enable a corporate takeover of the global food chain from plough-to-plate, putting the environment, biodiversity and food security at risk," said Dan Hindsgaul from Greenpeace.

The report asserts that when the US government filed a WTO complaint on May 13 this year against the European Union's de facto ban on approving new GE crops, the real intention was to prevent and roll back restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in both the EU and the rest of the world. This is reinforced by the fact that the US government has succeeded in bullying developing countries such as Sri Lanka, Bolivia, South Korea and Thailand to ease or abandon GMO restrictions simply by threatening them with possible WTO action.

"The WTO should have nothing to do with the regulation of GMOs. With the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in September, countries party to this UN treaty will finally have a tool to defend themselves against the US attack on the environment, farmers and consumers," added Hindsgaul.

Not even being a party to the Convention of Biodiversity under which the Protocol on Biosafety was adopted, the US nevertheless managed to stall the negotiations for eight years. The timing of the US-led WTO case against the EU moratorium was clearly timed to preempt the final ratification of the Protocol, which happened when Palau ratified as the 50th nation on June 13.

"The US is a rogue state in relation to biosafety and is actively working to break to global consensus on using the precautionary principle when regulating GMOs. Two thirds of the countries that have ratified the Biosafety Protocol are developing countries, and they are incresingly seeing through the empty promisses from the US and the GE industry that GMOs will save the world from hunger. The fact of the matter is that there is no GE crops out there helping poor farmers in the South or alleviating hunger. Only the GE industry stands to gain from removing or easing GMO restrictions," said Gerard Greenfield from Greenpeace.

With the 5th WTO Ministerial taking place in Mexico, and coinciding with the coming into force of the Biosafety Protocol, there is a critical opportunity for governments in the South to speak out against the threat posed by GE crops. The contamination of Mexican corn with US GE corn is the first case of contamination in a center of diversity. These are precisely the adverse effects of GMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity that the Protocol is designed to prevent. The case of GE maize contamination in Mexico must be seen as absolute proof that biosafety must be enforced over and above free trade rules, and has the potential to become the defining battle in ending the US global war on farmers, consumers and the environment.