WTO: Lettera aperta della Società Civile alla Commissione Europea



Brussels, 15 September 2004

European Commission
Rue de la Loi, 200
B -1049 Brussels

Brussels, 15 September 2004

Object: Open Letter by European Civil Society Groups to President Prodi, Commissioner Lamy, Byrne, Wallstrom, Fischler and Busquin.

We are writing to urge the European Commission to take a stronger and more coherent position on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops both internally in the EU and in the context of the WTO dispute on GMOs.

Like you, we welcome the fact that the WTO case is not being judged purely as a procedural issue and that it has been decided to ask for additional scientific expertise. We see the importance that the EU attaches to a scientific debate at the WTO panel as further affirmation of the ongoing uncertainty about the safety of GMOs. However, we are concerned that this position is not reflected in the Commission’s ongoing support of approvals. In fact, saying one thing at the WTO and doing another in the EU could seriously undermine the strength of the EU’s case at the WTO dispute.

In the interest of winning the WTO dispute, we urge you to bring your internal policies in line with your public position at the WTO.

We are greatly disturbed that since the dispute has started the Commission has started to aggressively push GM products against the will of the public at large and a significant number of member states. In particular, the Commission has:

• Forced through the approval of two GM products (Bt11 sweet-corn and NK603 animal feed) even though member states were divided over their long-term effects and the lack of proper testing carried out by the biotechnology companies concerned. Neither product received a qualified majority.

• Put pressure on those member states that have GMO bans in place urging them to drop such bans. Considering the lack of scientific agreement and the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of GMOs (not to mention the problems associated in preventing contamination from such products) national Governments must have the right to suspend the marketing in their territory.

Whilst the EU argues about the level of uncertainty in the WTO, consumers, farmers and food companies are exposed against their wishes to more GM imports. This also sends out a dangerous signal to other countries, especially those who are developing their own national legislation on GMOs, that the EU is “backing down” under pressure from the United States before the WTO case is even finished.

In respect of the large number of applications in the pipeline for GM foods, feeds and crops, together with the clear lack of support from member states, the Commissions position is becoming increasingly untenable and undemocratic. It is unacceptable that the Commission takes it upon itself to force through virtually every application. We therefore urge you to suspend your current policy and urgently address the problem of why consumers and member states do not support the introduction of these GM products – in particular the lack of proper long-term safety testing, a real right to choose and strict liability for the developers of such products.

On a more positive note we welcome many of the points made in the case made so far by the EU in the WTO dispute. In particular we welcome your acknowledgement that: “There is a serious question as to whether the WTO is the appropriate international forum for resolving all the GMO issues that the Complainants have raised in these cases. The European Communities can only regret that the Complainants have chosen to start a dispute settlement procedure based on flawed premises, rather than to promote international co-operation as a means to build a sound international framework for addressing the GMO issue.’ This is an issue that many civil society groups have been saying for a number of years. We would therefore welcome discussions with the Commission on how to further this agenda.

We look forward to hearing from you

ATTAC France, ATTAC Hungary, ATTAC Poland, ATTAC Stuttgart.
Both ENDS, Netherlands.
CIIR, Catholic Institute for International Relations.
CPE, European Farmers Coordination.
EHNE, Basque Farmers’ Union, Spain.
Five Years Freeze, UK.*
Friends of the Earth Europe.
GeneWatch UK.*
Greenpeace, European Unit.
Gooden Waar & Co, Netherlands.
HIVOS, Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries, the Netherlands.
IFOAM, The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.
NordBruk, Sweden.
OXFAM Solidarité, Belgium.
Rete Lilliput, Italy.
RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). *
Småbrukare i Sjuhärad, Sweden.
Transnational Institute Amsterdam.
URFIG, Unité de Recherche, de Formation et d’Information sur la Globalisation.
Weed, Weltwirtschaft, Ökologie & Entwicklung e.V. Germany.
Wemos, Netherlands.
WIDE, Women in Development Europe.

* These organisations are members of the international public” interest amicus coalition that submitted an amicus curiae brief to the WTO dispute settlement panel in support of the EU in the case Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products”

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