WTO GM trade war - has Europe lost the case? (14/12/2005)


See pictures from the Biteback handover of signatures in Hong Kong here: www.bite-back.org/pics/handover.htm and for a background briefing on the trade dispute, see

Press Release
Immediate release: Wed 14 December 2005

The Deputy Director General of the World Trade Organisation has today (Weds) refused to confirm rumours that Europe has lost the transatlantic trade dispute on genetically modified (GM) foods. One of the issues at stake is whether European countries can continue to maintain national bans on the import of GM products on a country by country basis.

Former WTO chief, Supachai Panitchpakdi, suggested recently that Europe had lost the trade dispute, a view confirmed last week by the French International Trade Minister, Christine Lagard. Deputy Director General of the WTO Alejandro Jara* *refused to comment on the statements from Supachai and Lagard.

The WTO is due to issue its draft final report on the GM trade dispute lead by the US against Europe on 5 January 2006.

Environmental campaigners have delivered a petition to the WTO signed by more than 135,000 people from 100 countries and by 740 organisations representing 60 million people, demanding the WTO allows European countries to protect their environment, consumers and farming from the risks posed by GM foods.

Friends of the Earth Europe Trade campaigner Alexandra Wandel said:

"The World Trade Organisation should have the guts to tell European consumers that free trade rules come before their safety and that they will be forced to eat genetically modified foods whether they want to or not. The WTO is the wrong place to be deciding what we eat and how we protect our environment. It is time they got their hands off our food."

Green Party WTO delegate Caroline Lucas MEP said:

"The right of individual countries to decide whether or not to allow GMOs in their food chains or their environment is a key element of the democratic principles which are supposed to underpin the EU itself. Neither the WTO nor the EU have any right to overrule the clear majority of EU citizens who do not want GMOs in their communities."

French Farmer Jose Bove said:

"Farmers and consumers are strongly opposed to GMOs. We will take action to keep Europe GMO free and to protect the world from GM farming."

Indian Ecologist Vandana Shiva said:

"The transatlantic trade dispute shows the worst face of the WTO. Despite the fact that the UN Biosafety Protocol allows countries to use the precautionary principle to ban the import of GMOs, the WTO may force feed us GMOs"
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WTO Deputy Director General Alejandro Jara met Jose Bove, Vandana Shiva, Caroline Lucas MEP and campaigners earlier today at the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong.* *High-resolution photographs are available from Friends of the Earth at _www.bite-back.org/pics/handover.htm 000_at midday UK time

Further information is available at www.bite-back.org/

The "Bite Back" citizen's objection was initiated by Friends of the Earth International with the support of ActionAid Alliance, Public Services International, Public Citizen, the International Gender and Trade Network, the French Confederation Paysanne, and the Indian Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.

The WTO is expected to issue a draft final report on 5th January 2006. In line with WTO secrecy, the draft ruling will only be sent to the countries in the dispute. This will be the basis for the final ruling expected later in March or April.

According to witnesses, former WTO Director General and now Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Conference_on_Trade_and_Development
(UNCTAD), Supachai Panitchpakdi, made it clear that Europe had lost the trade dispute over GM foods in a meeting on November 28th with Indian NTGOs. French International Trade Minister, Christine Lagard, confirmed this in a meeting with French NGOs on December 8th . She apparently deplored the fact that such information, which should have remained confidential in the pre-Ministerial period, was communicated in the context of the "Pre-Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting Consultation Workshop: Identifying Indias Core Concerns", organised jointly by the Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry (Department of Commerce) and UNCTAD.


In May 2003 the United States, supported by Canada, Argentina and initially Egypt, made a formal complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about Europe's stance on genetically modified organisms (GMO). In January the WTO will publish an Interim Report into the dispute. This will be a draft of the final ruling expected later in March or April.
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*What was the complaint?*

The US-led coalition alleges that Europe has:
-Refused to give the approval to a number of new GM foods,
-Stopped processing the applications for new GMOs,
-Not taken action to stop EU member states banning GM products.

The US argues that Europe's position on GMOs violates WTO rules and is a barrier to trade. In particular, it claims that US farmers have lost exports because they grow GM crops not approved in Europe. President Bush later added that the EU's moratorium was impeding efforts to feed the world. He stated that "European governments should join - not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa."

*What has happened in the meantime*

- Egypt pulls out

Soon after launching the dispute Egypt angered the US by pulling out altogether, citing "the need to preserve adequate and effective consumer and environmental protection." As the only African country in the coalition this was a crucial bl

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