WTO undermines right to act with precaution:

Greenpeace assessment of GE-Biotech dispute ruling

Press release - 29 September, 2006
29th September 2006: Greenpeace International today released a legal assessment of the World Trade Organisation’s interim ruling in the highly publicised dispute regarding Genetically Engineered (GE) organisms.(1) The WTO is scheduled to announce its final ruling in this case later today.

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.

The new Greenpeace study 'Genetic Engineering and the WTO: an Analysis of the Interim Report in the 'EC-Biotech' Case', points out that the WTO's interim ruling has "missed the point" by failing to consider relevant global environmental rules when judging GE restrictions in Europe. The report also concludes that the WTO has taken international environmental law backwards by failing to support the precautionary approach, a basic environmental principle endorsed by the Biosafety Protocol, the first international agreement to regulate the transboundary movements of GE organisms.


In response to the final ruling of the World Trade Organisation in the US-EU Biotech case, Daniel Mittler, Trade Policy Advisor, Greenpeace International, said: "This ruling scandalously undermines international environmental law, but it will only fuel the public's rejection of genetically engineered foods the world over.

GE giants from the United States will not sell a single grain more as a result of the WTO self-righteously ignoring global environmental law in this decision. In fact, the GE industry will face their products being taken off the shelves the world over - as Ebro Puleva has done by refusing to import any US rice into Europe, as announced today.

Governments must take urgent action to restrict the power of the WTO so it cannot be used to undermine environmental laws again. In the meantime, consumers, companies and governments will and must continue to act with precaution even if trade bureaucrats do not."

"The broad interpretation of the scope of global trade law and the narrow interpretation of the relevance of other international agreements such as the Biosafety Protocol is both unwarranted and counterproductive," commented Duncan Currie, international law expert and author of the assessment of the WTO case, "The ruling contradicts what Heads of States agreed at the UN World Summit in 2005. Although politicians claim that environmental law and trade law support each other, this ruling demonstrates that in the hands of the WTO, environmental law is in fact made subservient to trade laws."

"The WTO is clearly unqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues, and yet, when there is a conflict between trade and environmental considerations, it is the WTO that gets to decide which rules rule; it's like putting the fox in charge of the chickens," said Daniel Mittler, Trade Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International, "Recent scandals, such as the spread of illegal US rice in Europe or GE contamination of papaya in Thailand, show that the risks from GE are real, and a precautionary approach indispensable. Governments must act now to strengthen precaution in international law and ensure that global rules to protect the environment can never be undermined by the WTO."

Despite the WTO ruling, restrictions on Genetically Engineered organisms remain possible as long as they are based on risk assessments systems accepted by the WTO. As global protests against GE continue, and industry leaders commit to going GE free (2), Greenpeace is confident that governments, farmers and consumers will continue to reject GE as an unsafe and unnecessary technology. "But now we know that all those who claim that trade law and environment law will never be in conflict are lying" concludes Mittler.

Other contacts: For further information, please contact:Duncan Currie, international law expert, +64 21 632 335Daniel Mittler, Trade Policy Advisor, Greenpeace International, +49 171 876 5345Namrata Chowdhary, Greenpeace International Communications, + 31 646 1973 27

VVPR info: Link to legal assessment published today:http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/genetic-engineering-and-the-wto

Notes: Notes to Editors:(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. See: http://www.greenpeace.eu/downloads/gmo/WTObriefing0602.pdf andwww.bite-back.org(2) The world’s largest rice processing company, Ebro Puleva, which controls 30% of the EU rice market, has confirmed to Greenpeace International that it has stopped all imports of rice from the USA due to the threat of contamination by genetically engineered (GE) rice. See press centre for related news release to be issued on 29th September 2006. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/