David Waskow, 202 222-0716
Dick Bell, 202 222-0742
Washington – Reacting to news reports that a World Trade Organization (WTO) tribunal had ruled against the European Union’s regulatory system for genetically modified food, Friends of the Earth – U.S. today criticized the ruling as an inappropriate intrusion into decisions about what food people eat.
Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth – U.S., said: “The WTO is unfit to decide what we eat or what farmers grow. It is an undemocratic and secretive institution that has no particular competence in environmental or health and safety matters.”
Friends of the Earth – U.S. joined with the Center for International Environmental Law and other U.S.-based organizations to submit an amicus brief in the WTO case highlighting the uncertainty and inadequacy of scientific studies on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as the evidence that particular GM crops cause environmental harm and possibly endanger human health.
“Studies from the National Academy of Sciences have strongly criticized U.S. regulatory agencies for not doing what’s necessary to determine whether GMOs cause harm to health or the environment,” added Blackwelder. “This WTO decision will only increase the determination of citizens in Europe and around the world to reject these poorly tested foods.”
The United States, Canada and Argentina launched a trade dispute with the European Union through the WTO in May 2003. Opposition to genetically modified foods and crops in Europe has increased since the beginning of the trade dispute, and there are now over 170 regions and 4,500 smaller areas in Europe that have declared themselves GMO-free. Several counties in California have also passed moratoria on GMO crops.
The United States has refused to sign the UN Biosafety Protocol, an international agreement already in place that deals with trade in genetically modified organisms.
“The first ten years of GMO crops have failed to deliver the benefits promised by the biotech industry and have played no role in tackling poverty or hunger,” said David Waskow, International Program Director for Friends of the Earth – U.S. “But the Bush administration continues to be deaf to the serious concerns about GMOs expressed by developing countries that have signed up to the Biosafety Protocol.”
Friends of the Earth Europe, a member of the Friends of the Earth International network in 70 countries, has led an international campaign against the WTO suit called “Bite-back – WTO: Hands off our food!” The campaign is supported by 750 organizations representing some 60 million people (see www.bite-back.org).
Friends of the Earth – U.S. today also joined with other U.S.-based organizations in a statement highlighting the ongoing resistance to genetically modified foods by consumers in the European Union and internationally (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/WTO_Statement_2-06.pdf).