An article from Organic View - An e-mail publication of
the Organic Consumers Association
v.1 n.18 December 8, 1999
Victory At WTO Meeting
In a major setback for the biotech
industry, negotiators at
last week's World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle were
not able to move forward in establishing rules for exporting
US genetically engineered crops to other countries.
At the WTO meeting, the announced number one priority for
the US Trade team was agriculture. US Trade negotiators
wanted to knock out subsidies to European farmers, and open
foreign markets for US grown genetically engineered crops.
US Trade negotiators failed on both accounts.
The WTO sets the rules for trade for its 135 nation
participants. Most major countries including the European
Union (EU) are requiring more answers to unknown health and
environmental risks of genetically engineered foods before
accepting them into their country. Additionally, countries
like the EU, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea
have put forth labeling requirements for genetically
The US Department of Agriculture and the US Trade Office
have dismissed objections to genetically engineered foods in
other countries as not being based on "sound science" and
potential "barriers to trade." The US was hoping to
negotiate with other countries and set up a framework for
opening up markets for US genetically engineered foods.
Early in the meetings, there appeared to be a major victory
for the US Trade team, when the EU proposed putting together
a working group on genetically engineered crops. Such a
working group increased the chances that many of the
controversial issues surrounding genetically engineered
crops would be decided based largely on economic
considerations. OCA and other environmental and consumer
groups would like to see the issue of genetically engineered
foods settled within the United Nations Biosafety talks -
which are more likely to take into account potential
environmental and human health risks in formulating an
international protocol. Governments will gather next month
in Montreal to resume the U.N. Biosafety talks.
But by the end of the WTO meeting, the EU proposal on the
working group was withdrawn and declared dead by a delegate
from France. An alternative EU proposal for a broadly
focused biotechnology working group that would consider
consumer and environmental concerns was rejected by U.S.
negotiators as unacceptable. This was a major victory for
those fighting against genetically engineered foods and
crops worldwide - and a major defeat for the biotech
industry and US Trade officials.
For more on what happened in Seattle, check out a website
set up by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy -
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