WTO GM ruling will change nothing, say campaigners

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm crops, European union, Gm

The WTO ruling backing the US, Canada and Argentina in their
efforts to open Europe up to genetically modified (GM) food has
been dismissed as 'irrelevant'.

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace argues that opposition to GM crops is so strong in Europe that consumer distrust will continue to inform the food industrys attitude towards the technology.

"US agro-chemical giants will not sell a bushel more of their GM grain as a result of the WTO ruling,"​ said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International trade advisor.

"European consumers, farmers and a growing number of governments remain opposed to GMOs, and this will not change in Europe or globally.

The $300 million lost exports for US GM maize growers per year will continue, and remain a warning to exporting countries that GMOs are not wanted in Europe."

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. The WTO ruled last week that any any ban on GM imports contravened the rules of free trade.

Both the European biotechnology industry and the European Commission have welcomed the decision. "The industry continues to back a science-based regulatory system to ensure farmers have the choice to use sustainable techniques that best meet the needs of their farming operations,"​ said EuropaBio, the European association for biotech industries, in a statement.

It says that since the case was launched in 2003, farmers around the world have been choosing to plant biotech crops at unprecedented rates. Last year alone, more than 90 million hectares were sown with biotech crops by over 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries including European countries - the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

"Scientists worldwide have shown GM crops to be safe, farmers around the world are increasingly choosing to grow GM crops, the food industry is increasingly supportive and the general public / consumers are increasingly open to it,"​ said Simon Barber, director of the plant biotechnology unit at EuropaBio.

But Greenpeace remains convinced that Europe does not want GM food. It is clear that Member States still need to be convinced that introducing genetically modified ingredients into food production is acceptable the Commission has asked EU members over ten times to vote on authorising a GMO food or feed product, but in the large majority of cases, there was no agreement or simple deadlock.

"This verdict only proves that the WTO puts trade interests above all others and is unqualified to deal with complex scientific and environmental issues,"​ said Mittler. "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."

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality, Policy

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