World Trade Organization

Leaked World Trade Organization Ruling Shows U.S. Misled the World on Biotech Foods "Victory"

WTO ruling does not prevent countries from restricting or banning GM foods

Friends of the Earth International made available a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified organisms(GMO) foods.

The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which published today February 28 a preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin'.

The leaked report reveals that:

  • despite claims of victory by the U.S. Administration and the biotechnology industry – widely reported in the media in February 2006 – the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (U.S., Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;
  • the World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GMO foods and if they are safe.

According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it considers only trade principles and has no particular competence in environmental or health issues.

According to the leaked WTO report ruling:

  • Europe’s 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004.
  • There was also an "undue delay" in the EU’s approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.
  • Safeguard measures by EU member states broke trade rules only because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements.

Read the full briefing