"With growing opposition to GMOs and the WTO and a global alliance against the GMO trade dispute (see www.bite-back.org), WTO member states have no choice: better act now to change trade rules in favour of the public health and the environment than wait and be sorry."
Trade rules must change in favour of public health
By Alexandra Wandel
Financial Times, May 5 2004
Sir, You report ("European business groups criticise Lamy", April 28) that the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (Unice) tried to attack the debate begun by Pascal Lamy, the trade commissioner, about the need to revise world trade rules in order to reflect "collective preferences".
In contrast to Unice, Friends of the Earth believes that such a debate is urgently needed. This is because current world trade rules are out of date and simply do not take account of societal needs or the protection of the environment.
A clear example is the recent complaint by the US administration through the use of World Trade Organisation rules against Europe's precautionary stance against genetically modified organisms. In light of this threat, the European Commission is caving in to WTO and US pressure. The Commission intends to lift the GMO moratorium and national import bans as soon as possible. This will make the Commission very unpopular: 70 per cent of Europeans do not want to eat GMOs.
If Europe is forced to accept GMOs, so will the rest of the world. This has been seen before; in the past the US has used flawed WTO rules against a small number of countries such as Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Croatia in order to prevent them from restricting GM food and farming. A ruling in favour of the biotech industry would result in only a few winners - namely, big biotech corporations - but many losers, including concerned consumers and farmers, as well as losses to wildlife and the environment. In addition, especially after Cancún, the legitimacy of the WTO would be significantly undermined.
With growing opposition to GMOs and the WTO and a global alliance against the GMO trade dispute (see www.bite-back.org), WTO member states have no choice: better act now to change trade rules in favour of the public health and the environment than wait and be sorry.
Alexandra Wandel, Trade Programme Co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth Europe, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
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