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WTO Overrules GE Free New Zealand

16 November 2002

WTO Overrules GE Free New Zealand

"The biggest obstacles to a GE-Free New Zealand are not just the politicians and the biotech lobby; they include the so-called free-trade rules of the WTO," Professor Jane Kelsey from the Action, Research and Education Network of Aotearoa (ARENA) told the GE Free rally in Auckland today.

"WTO rules provide heavy punishments for governments who dare to regulate the GE industry. That includes GE-free laws, bans on GE imports, requirements to label of GE foods, bans on patenting of life forms, or guarantees of indigenous control over their taonga.

"Now the agribusinesses, drug and biotech companies along other transnationals are pushing for even stronger control agreements at the WTO," Professor Kelsey says.

"One Monsanto executive recently admitted that their goal is to control the world’s entire food chain, through changes to the WTO’s services agreement. Others aim to control the world’s genetic pool through gene banks and patents over biodiversity by extending the WTO’s intellectual property rules.

"This is not about trade," Kelsey asserts. "It is about developing global rules on patents, agriculture, investment, services and environmental regulation. If they have their way those rules would let those powerful companies do what they, where they want, on their terms anywhere in the world.

"The WTO has already struck down the ‘precautionary’ principle, so countries have to provide scientific proof of harmful effects before any restrictions on GE can be imposed, or face the threat of trade sanctions.

"Governments in the European Union, Japan, Sri Lanka, China, Thailand and South Korea are already under threat. Corporate complaints to the WTO over government policies to ban GE imports, demand certification that imported food is GE free, require the labelling of GM foods or refuse to implement the WTO’s patent regime are having an effect.

"So when Jim Sutton, Helen Clark and Mike Moore tie NZ's future to further expansion of the WTO they are closing the door on a future that is GE free," Kelsey says. The fight against the WTO brings together all the struggles that are part of the GE Free movement: food security, indigenous sovereignty, consumer rights, health, democracy and biosecurity.

"My message to the rally today, and the message we have to send to the government over the next year as they prepare for the WTO ministerial meeting in Mexico in September 2003 is: ‘No to GE. No to the WTO!’"

Ends: 393 text words.

Auckland Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland and the Action, Research and Educational Network of Aotearoa (ARENA) has just returned from Sydney.

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