Greenpeace dismisses WTO ruling and predicts Europe will stay closed to GMOs

Feature story - February 8, 2006
As the World Trade Organization (WTO) puts trade interests above all others European consumers, farmers and a growing number of governments remain opposed to GMOs, and this will not change - in Europe or globally as it sees the WTO to be unqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues.

Greenpeace marks a maize field with signs showing corn with a 'question mark' indicating that 1 in 200 maize crops can be genetically contaminated if the draft EU seed directive is passed.

Greenpeace dismissed as irrelevant a WTO ruling that reportedly backs the US, Canada and Argentina in their efforts to force Europe to accept genetically modified organisms (GMOs); according to first press reports, the WTO decided that EU national bans contravened trade rules. The environmental organisation considers that just as the WTO case did not challenge EU laws designed to protect the environment, it could not be used to undermine existing international agreements on biosafety.

"U.S agro-chemical giants will not sell a bushel more of their GM grain as a result of the WTO ruling. European consumers, farmers and a growing number of governments remain opposed to GMOs, and this will not change - in Europe or globally," said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International trade advisor. "The $300 million lost exports for US GM maize growers per year (1) will continue, and remain a warning to exporting countries that GMOs are not wanted in Europe."

"This verdict only proves that the WTO puts trade interests above all others and is unqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues. The US administration and agro-chemical companies brought the case in a desperate attempt to force-feed markets with GMOs, but will continue to be frustrated," Said Patwajee Srisuwan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

In August 2003, the US, Canada and Argentina took the EU to the WTO for suspending approvals for biotech products, and for six member states' national bans on EU-approved GMOs.

Despite the ongoing case in Geneva, European governments voted with a clear majority in 2005 to retain existing national bans on GMOs (2) and individual countries continue to reject GMOs. Greece last week announced an extension of its ban on seeds from a type of GM maize produced by Monsanto. Austria also recently announced its intention to ban the import of a GM oilseed rape. These bans, in addition to those imposed last year by Hungary and Poland, 172 regions in Europe which have declared themselves GMO-free zones, and a Swiss moratorium decided by public referendum, show that Europe is steadfast in rejecting GMOs.

EU legislation on the approval and labelling of GMOs is not at stake and will remain unaffected by the outcome of the WTO case (3).

"Thais needed to protect  our sovereignty and rights to protect the environment by strengthening our own local law which must be based on pre- cautionary principle. If Thailand yields to governments or international organizations which are manipulated behind the scene by GMO companies, Thailand will lose our sovereignty and rights to protect the environment, public health, trade and farmers' rights" Said Patwajee.

For more information contact:

Patwajee Srisuwan, Genetics Engineering Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Tel 01 381 5367,

Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International WTO expert +49 171 876 5345, Ua-phan Chamnan- ua, Media Campaigner, Tel 01 928 2426

(1) The US claims $200 million lost sales for corn products alone, $300 million for corn and soy products. See "European Commission Opts Not To Push For End of GMO Moratorium," INSIDE U.S. TRADE, January 25, 2002; or http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/wrs984/wrs984e.pdf (2) 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 proposals aimed at the lifting of bans to a vote at the EU Council of Environment ministers on 24 June 2005, 22 countries out of 25 voted against the Commission's proposals and decided that the bans were justified and should remain in place. This forced the EU Commission to withdraw its proposals. Greenpeace briefing on national safeguard clauses ('bans'): http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/NationalBans0507.pdf (3) A Greenpeace briefing on the WTO dispute on GMOs is available at http://eu.greenpeace.org/downloads/gmo/WTObriefing0602.pdf

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