Transatlantic Consumer groups call on US Government to drop WTO GMO case

July 1, 2003

London, 30 Jun 2003


At the EU-US Summit on Washington DC, on June 25 2003, TACD representatives criticised the US government's WTO suit on GMOs. Consumers from both sides of the Atlantic support the European Commission's precautionary approach to biotechnology that would allow consumers the choice of knowing whether or not there are GMOs in the food they eat.

Groups characterize the US suit as a calculated maneuver to impose genetically engineered products on an unwilling world.

The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) will call upon the US government to drop its World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the European Union's policies on genetically engineered (GE) foods at a meeting with US and EU officials tomorrow, as part of the official US-EU summit taking place in Washington, D.C., June 25, 2003.

Felix Cohen, head of the Netherlands consumer organisation Consumentenbond, said,

"Contrary to what we read in the US press, there is no ban or moratorium on GE foods in Europe. There has been a necessary delay in approvals of new GE products while new legislation is being put in place governing safety, formal pre-market approval, traceability and liability. In Europe, as in the US, it takes many years to pass and finalise legislation. Nations should be allowed the time to reach agreement on domestic food safety policy without being threatened with trade sanctions in the WTO.

"It is the US, not Europe, that is outside of the mainstream on this issue. By 2004, 35 countries representing half the world's population will require mandatory pre-market safety approval of GE products. Moreover, even if the US were successful in its suit, European consumers would not eat the stuff; you cannot force consumers to eat products they do not trust yet. The Bush administration's challenge in the WTO is an assault on every consumer's right to know about the food on their plates and to be assured of its safety."

Joan Claybrook, president of the US consumer organisation Public Citizen, said:

"The Bush administration's attempt to link Europe's GE policies with hunger in Africa is a calculated maneuver aimed at camouflaging the fact that this WTO case against Europe is about forcing more products from the agribusiness and biotech industries on an unwilling world. People in other nations need to know that the US government does not require mandatory safety reviews of GE foods, making administration claims that these foods have been proven safe highly misleading. Worse, as has been repeatedly said by African governments and academic experts, GE crops are not the answer to hunger in Africa and in fact could worsen existing problems, in part because all GE crops are subject to patent restrictions. This means that African farmers cannot save seeds from crop to crop for replanting without paying an annual fee to the biotech company who owns that plant variety. A far more effective way to help improve the agricultural economies of Africa would be for both the US and the EU to stop dumping subsidized agricultural products in Africa, a practice that is destroying local farmers and distorting local markets. It is noteworthy that Zambia, the only country to reject GE food aid and the country repeatedly noted by the Bush administration as the symbol of the dangers of refusing GE foods, solved its food crisis without relying on GE foods and will enjoy bumper crops this year.

"The clear goal of the US WTO suit is to frighten off other nations from developing their own GE regulatory structures – something a large number of nations are doing. African nations and other nations of the world are perfectly capable of making up their own minds on the issue of GE food aid and the domestic regulation of such products. They can look at the US and see that the biotech industry has done little for the hungry here and will do little for the hungry in Africa."

Full text including background information

Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue

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