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3-Food: 'Leaked' WTO report stirs GM food controversy

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TITLE:  'Leaked' WTO report stirs GM food controversy
SOURCE: Food Navigator, France, by Anthony Fletcher
DATE:   03 Mar 2006

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'Leaked' WTO report stirs GM food controversy

3/3/2006 - A pressure group has alleged that a leaked confidential WTO
ruling on the recent GM food trade dispute shows that many pro-GM
arguments were lost.

UK-based environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) claims that the
1,000-page report, distributed earlier this month only to the countries
involved in the dispute, reveals that despite claims to the latter, the
US, Canada and Argentina in fact failed to win most of their arguments.
But biotech industry body EuropaBio has slammed the pressure group for
spreading "mischievous nonsense" and trying to frighten people.

"What I sense is that Friends of the Earth and others are making
statements about the WTO suggesting that it is forcing people to have
things they don't want, when this is not the case at all," Simon Barber,
director of the plant biotech unit (PBU) of EuropaBio, told FoodNavigator.

"Argentina, Canada and the US were concerned that the full democratic
process was not being used properly. People are not being forced to have
things they do not want."

FoE however insists that the alleged leaked report, which Barber says he
has not read, is the report that the biotech industry didnt 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," said FoE Europe GMO campaigner
Adrian Bebb.

"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."

The WTO ruled last month that any European ban on GM imports contravened
the rules of free trade. But according to FoE, the WTO did not rule on
two of the most important questions before it, namely whether GM foods
are effectively the same as non-GM foods, and if they are safe.

The FoE also claims that the WTO dismissed eight other complaints in
relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action,
since the moratorium ended in 2004.

But Barber claims that FoE is purposefully mixing up the argument.

"It was the industry's view that the regulatory process was not being
properly implemented, and that some Member States were following illegal bans.

"Environmental protection has never come into this discussion. The only
thing being challenged was the trade rules."

In any case, FoE argues that the WTO is not and should not be the
appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and
environmental protection.

The pressure group has now launched an online action today calling on
the governments to reject the WTO as a forum to decide on what it calls
"environmental trade disputes".

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

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