Friends of the Earth Press Release
US FILES WTO GM COMPLAINTThe United States administration has announced that it is bringing a case in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the European Union over genetically modified food. The US has been joined by Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay. The US will argue that the current EU moratorium on the commercial development of GM foods is an "illegal" trade barrier under WTO rules. But environment pressure group Friends of the Earth is warning the move is the latest in a series of attempts by the US to block other countries' decisions to protect their environment, human health and social standards.
The move could bring the full force of WTO sanctions to bear in order to force GM food into European markets regardless of the wishes of European consumers. The US is likely to attempt to prevent any effective labelling of food derived from GM ingredients.
US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has threatened a WTO case over GM on several occasions, most recently in January this year, but is believed to have been told by the White House to back off during attempts to secure European support for the invasion of Iraq. The US Administration has been lobbied heavily to by GM companies such as Monsanto and by big US farming interests such as the National Corn Growers Association.
WTO procedures are complex and secretive, and have been heavily criticised by environmentalists and others for their pro-business bias. In particular, WTO rules are hostile to the fundamental precautionary principle. [A full Friends of the Earth briefing on the WTO disputes procedure is available from the press office].
Friends of the Earth Policy Director Liana Stupples commented:
"This looks like the moment of truth for the future of GM food in Europe, and future trade relations between the European Union and United States. It is clear that this US Administration, backed by some of the richest and most powerful lobbyists in US politics, is determined to use the secretive, biased and undemocratic procedures of the WTO to bulldoze through attempts by other states to set minimum environmental, social and health standards. If this attempt succeeds, the US will force GM foods onto European markets regardless of the wishes of consumers.
The European Commission and national governments must find the courage to stand up to this outrageous piece of bullying. Decisions over the future of GM crops in Europe must not be made in the George Bush White House. Friends of the Earth will step up its GM campaign to fight this outrageous challenge to Europe's right to say no to GMOs."