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WTO Still In Need Of Environmental Reform

World Trade Organisation Still In Need Of Environmental Reform

Geneva, 18 September 2000: Greenpeace considers today’s ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), that the French ban on asbestos imports does not violate its trade rules, to be a step in the right direction but warns that the WTO still has a long way to go before it can claim to be ‘greening’ itself.

"Although it is far too premature to talk of a ‘greening’ WTO, this is the first time the WTO has recognised that trade restrictions are justified when they protect the environment and human health. This is also perhaps the first tangible reaction to the current tidal wave of protests against the WTO’s environmentally-hostile policies and performance," said Greenpeace Political Director Remi Parmentier.

In 1998, Canada called on the WTO to overturn a French ban on the use and import of white asbestos, a highly toxic material that has been linked to lung cancer worldwide. Canada argued that the ban, instigated in 1996, represented an unacceptable trade barrier that was affecting the Canadian asbestos industry. Today, the WTO ruled against Canada’s objections on the ground that trade restrictions are acceptable if their purpose is to protect human, animal or plant life or health.

"Hopefully, today´s asbestos ruling is an indication that the WTO has started to move, but they have a very long way to go. We shall start talking of a `greening’ WTO only when and if this organisation rules in favour of the environment and human health even in cases where some scientific disagreement persists,” said Parmentier.

A final resolution has yet to be made by the WTO on the dispute between the E.U and the U.S. over the growth hormones in cattle. The U.S. and Canada have complained about the European embargo on the use of growth hormones in bred beef. Canadian and U.S. officials have also suggested that European and other initiatives to restrict the use of genetically modified organisms in food and agriculture are not compatible with WTO trading rules.

“The outcome of these disputes will be a real test of the ability of the WTO to endorse the precautionary principle and become `green’”, he added.

Greenpeace considers that, when there is a scientific dispute as to whether or not a technology or practice is safe, such as in the use of growth hormones in meat or the use of genetically modified organisms in food and agriculture, the protection of human health and the environment should take priority over short term trade interests. It also believes that trade rules must not prevent sustainable and environmentally-friendly farming and production processes, nor put them at a disadvantage.

For further information please contact:

Remi Parmentier on + 31 6 535 04702 { HYPERLINK } or end

James Williams Greenpeace International (Press Office) 176 Keizersgracht 1016 DW Amsterdam Netherlands. Phone: ++ 31 (20) 5249 515 Fax: ++ 31 20 523 6212

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