Right to remain GE-free overrides WTO ruling

Press release - 10 May, 2006
Greenpeace was dismissive of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling, due to be released today, on a US-sponsored case which was attempting to force EU countries to accept genetically engineered (GE) organisms, in spite of overwhelming public opposition in Europe.

Greenpeace was dismissive of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling,due to be released today, on a US-sponsored case which was attemptingto force EU countries to accept genetically engineered (GE) organisms,in spite of overwhelming public opposition in Europe.

Greenpeace called the WTO 'unqualified' to deal with issues around GEorganisms and rejected the verdict of the US-driven court case backedby Canada and Argentina which was attempting to use the WTO to force GEorganisms onto the EU. (1)

"All this verdict proves is that the WTO is unqualified to deal withcomplex scientific and environmental issues, as it puts trade interestsabove all others. Its only effect has been to reinforce thedetermination of EU countries to resist bullying by pro-GE governmentsand to say no to GE crops and food," said Eric Gall, Greenpeace EUpolicy adviser.

Despite initial US claims of victory, the interim ruling showed thatthe WTO panel rejected many of the US arguments, and only gave the EU a'slap on the wrist' for taking too much time to apply its ownlegislation. The panel came out against national bans on GE, but didconcede that national bans are justifiable, provided a risk assessmentis conducted (2).

"The US claims of victory are exaggerated, and will not deter theincreasing number of countries in the EU and around the world which actto stop the release of GE organisms," said Daniel Mittler, GreenpeaceInternational WTO expert. "While the WTO ruling fails to uphold theprecautionary principle, which should be the basis of GE organismpolicies globally, it does affirm that governments can continue to banGE organisms if they so wish."

"There are now 12 GE organism bans in seven EU countries, more than in2003 when the US presented its case against the EU to the WTO. Onlylast week, Poland banned the cultivation of genetically engineeredcrops; a slap in the face to US agro-chemical giants, as Poland is thesecond biggest agricultural food basket in the EU" said Eric GallGreenpeace EU policy adviser.

Documents submitted by the EU to the WTO reveal that the Commissiondefended the "large areas of uncertainty" regarding the impact of GEorganisms on health and the environment, and that "some issues have notyet been studied at all" (3). On 12 April, the Commission announcedthat it was taking steps to improve the risk assessment of GEorganisms; current procedures are deemed insufficient and untransparentby most European governments (4).

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which usesnon-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmentalproblems, and to drive solutions essential to a green and peacefulfuture.

Other contacts: Eric Gall, Greenpeace EU policy advisor +32 496 161 582 (in Brussels)

VVPR info: Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International WTO expert +49 171 876 5345Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications officer +31 6 4619 7324Katharine Mill, Greenpeace EU Unit media officer, +32 496 156 229 (in Brussels)

Notes: 1. In August 2003, the US, backed by Canada and Argentina took the EU to the WTO for suspending approvals for biotech products, and for six EU member states' implementing national bans on EU-approved GE organisms.The EU Commission tried to use the WTO case to force five European countries (Greece, France, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany) attacked by the US to lift their national bans (Italy, the sixth, lifted its ban two years ago).When the EU Commission put its proposal to lift the bans to a vote at the EU Council of Environment Ministers on 24 June 2005, 22 countries out of 25 voted against the Commission, concluding that the bans were justified and should remain. This forced the EU Commission to withdraw its proposals.Greenpeace briefing on national safeguard clauses ('bans'): http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/NationalBans0507.pdf2. http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2006/WTO_briefing.pdf3. http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/WTOpapers060418.pdf4. IP/06/498, Brussels, 12 April 2006, "Commission proposes practical improvements to the way the European GMO legislative framework is implemented"Additional documentsGreenpeace briefing on the WTO dispute on GE organisms is available at http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/WTObriefing0602.pdf

Exp. contact date: 2006-06-10 00:00:00