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Key powers holding treaty hostage over WTO agenda?

Vital Elements Of Toxic Chemicals Treaty Still Unresolved: Key powers holding treaty hostage over WTO agenda?

Johannesburg, 8th December 2000: As countries neared their deadline to agree on an international treaty to ban persistent organic pollutants (POPs), some of the world’s most dangerous chemicals, Greenpeace warned that a few key world powers, such as the US and Australia, have turned their backs on science by rejecting the need to taking precautionary action on highly toxic chemical pollutants.

“Precaution, since it takes scientific uncertainty and ignorance into account, must be regarded as a very robust component of the scientific process. It’s becoming clear that the US and Australia have come to these talks with an agenda to protect their industries and trade interests rather than human health and the environment. They seem concerned that taking a precautionary approach on toxic chemicals will have implications on trade restrictions,” said Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace political advisor.

Last night, developing countries and the EU called on countries to include the precautionary principle in key parts of the treaty as it urges action to protect against potential harm to human health and the environment. They made an impassioned plea to countries that are attempting to shred this principle, an accepted provision of international environmental law, and stated that the POPs treaty would be devoid of meaning if not centred on precaution. Panama added that, had we accepted this principle fifty years ago, when POPs chemicals first came onto he market, there would be no need for this treaty as we would have prevented the damage occurring. “Australia and US ‘arguments’ on precaution are not arguments but post decision rationalisation, perhaps designed to remove any perceived obstacle to their WTO agenda in the face of an escalating conflict over unrestricted free trade and the ability for nations to protect their people from environmental and other harm,” said Stairs. “That these countries are putting trade concerns before the environment and human health in the context of these discussions is absurd,” he added.

Greenpeace urged all nations to remain true to their responsibilities and not to allow trade concerns to jeopardise this historic opportunity to address the current chemical crisis. In the past week alone, it has received over 2000 email messages from concerned people around the world who are urging governments to agree to an effective treaty this week.

“This treaty is about eliminating some of the most dangerous chemicals known to science. If it is to be effective it is vital Australia and the US stop holding the rest of the world hostage over narrow economic interests”, said Stairs.

Exposure to POPs has been linked to a wide range of effects on the health and development in both wildlife and humans including cancers, endometriosis, learning disorders and the disruption of the hormone system. Of particular concern are the toxic effects of persistent organic pollutants on young children and the developing foetus.

For further information contact Matilda Bradshaw, Greenpeace media on 09 31 6 535 04701 To read the messages sent visit the Greenpeace booth at the negotiations venue in Johannesburg or contact The treaty negotiations are scheduled to close this weekend. The treaty will be adopted in Stockholm in May 2001.


For information on Greenpeace please visit:

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