WTO tries to force GM food down our throats

8 February 2006

WTO tries to force GM food down our throats

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen has described as “idiotic” the World Trade Organisation's attempt to prevent the exclusion from the European Union of certain genetically modified organisms and foods containing or manufactured from them. “Countries in Europe must be able to decide for themselves whether they want to allow products whose effects on public health and the environment are unclear,” she said.

Krista van VelzenIn Europe it has been agreed that applications for permission to cultivate or market GMOs or products made from or containing them must be handled on a case-by-case basis. Many countries are holding back from granting such permission, because the risks for public health and the environment are not always known. Krista van Velzen fears that the WTO's ruling will be seized upon as an opportunity to silence critical voices. “The Netherlands authorities have so far proved immune to such concerns and are allowing all sorts of GM products on to the market, despite extensive scientific uncertainty. This ruling is not going to improve matters.”

Austria has already been admonished by the European Commission for its attempts to close its borders to GM crops. The WTO's provisional ruling, says Ms van Velzen, could open the floodgates. “Under pressure from the multinationals, democratic decision-making has gone out of the window: European countries can no longer choose for themselves what they will and will not permit within their own territories. This discussion as to what countries may or may not decide is of the utmost importance, and not only for opponents of GMOs.”

Van Velzen sees the WTO's decision typical of the direction in which the organisation is going. “Everything has to come into line with the free market fundamentalism to which the organisation adheres. Profit comes before all other considerations, with no thought for the potential damage to health or the environment or for the position of developing countries.”

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