More US government lies: WTO ruling on genetically modified foods 'spun' into victory for American multinationals

Friends of the Earth International have made available online a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified (GM) foods. The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which has published an analysis of its contents under the title ‘Looking behind the US spin’

The leaked report reveals that:

- Despite claims of victory by the US Administration and the biotechnology industry – dutifully parroted in the mainstream media last month - the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (US, Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;

- The World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GM foods and if they are safe.

“The WTO ruling is not a victory for the US administration and the biotech giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops,” said Juan Lopez, GM Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International.

Friends of the Earth argue that the WTO is not the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it ignores the internationally recognised ‘Precautionary Principle’ and considers only trade principles.

The leaked WTO report notes that:

· Europe’s 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) broke trade rules only because it caused “undue delay” in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in
2004.

· There was also an “undue delay” in the EU’s approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.

· National bans by EU member states broke trade rules because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;

“This is the report that the WTO didn’t want the public to see. It reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to get the big win they were hoping for. Free trade proponents needed a clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat and how we protect our environment,” said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.

The WTO report is available online in two parts: One and Two

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