Thursday, July 23, 2009

Canada capitulates and abandons fight with Europe at the WTO

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), 20 July 2009
http://www.cban.ca

Ottawa, Canada -- The announcement that Canada has agreed to end its World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Europe over genetically modified (GM) foods is being greeted as a step forward by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. The agreement between Canada and Europe could lead to a much needed, comprehensive overhaul of Canada's policies on GM food including implementing the precautionary principle, ratifying the Biosafety Protocol, and establishing mandatory GM food labeling.

Canada and Europe have signed a final bilateral settlement which now leaves the US and Argentina alone in their WTO dispute with Europe over GM food. Canada's actions indicate a clear crack in the pro-GM front for the first time.

"It seems Canada saw no future in further pursuing the WTO dispute with Europe and has instead agreed to hold bi-annual meetings with the European Commission to discuss GM issues," said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a coalition of 18 groups, "Its about time our government began looking towards Europe as a model for reforming Canada's dangerously inadequate regulations of GM crops and foods."

The Canadian Government is trying to spin this new agreement as improving market access for GM crops in Europe, but this access already exists and the obstacle for Canadian food exports to Europe is continued consumer rejection. According to Monsanto, by March of this year, the European Commission had already approved all of the GM seeds currently used in Canada. There is no market for GE foods in Europe, including canola, and it is wishful thinking on the part of the Harper Government that Europe will accept biodiesel made from canola -- nearly 100% genetically modified -- in view of the growing worldwide controversy over biofuels.

"Canada has a great deal to learn from Europe, especially from countries that continue to apply the precautionary principle by refusing GM crops, like France and Germany," said Eric Darier of Greenpeace, "With new bilateral talks between Canada and Europe on GM, we can only expect that the Canadian Government will rapidly adopt mandatory GM food labeling, as over 80% of Canadian consumers demand the labeling that European consumers already enjoy."

"By authorizing GM canola rapidly, the Canadian government failed to protect Canadian farmers' interests like organic farming as well as overseas markets," says Arnold Taylor of the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate.

"This agreement gives nothing concrete to Canada. It has less to do with getting an immediate result on GMOs and more to do with Canada's agenda for a trade pact with Europe." said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

For more information:

Eric Darier cell 514 605-6497
Lucy Sharratt, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext.5
Arnold Taylor, Saskatchewan Organic Directorate, cell: 306-241-6126 or 306-252-2783
Stuart Trew, Council of Canadians, cell 647-222-9782
http://www.cban.ca
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Canada capitulates and abandons fight with Europe at the WTO part 2
http://www.cban.ca/Resources/Topics/Trade

Canada and Europe have signed a bilateral settlement which ends Canada's dispute with the EU at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over genetically modified foods - this leaves the US and Argentina alone in their WTO dispute with Europe over GM food and requires Canada to meet with EU officials twice yearly to discuss GM issues.

The Canadian Government is trying to spin this new agreement as improving market access for GM crops in Europe, but this access already exists and the obstacle for Canadian food exports to Europe is continued consumer rejection. According to Monsanto, by March of this year, the European Commission had already approved all of the GM seeds currently used in Canada.

Click here for background information: CBAN Briefing: WTO dispute over Genetically Modified Organisms: Canada, Australia, US vs European Union, July 20, 2009 http://www.cban.ca/Resources/Topics/Trade/Background-Information-on-Canada-s-WTO-Dispute-with-Europe-over-GMOs

Summary

On May 13, 2003, Canada filed a complaint, in tandem with complaints filed by Australia and the US, to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body regarding European Commission delays in approving GMOs.

Canada, US and Argentina alleged that the EU had put in place a de facto moratorium on GM approvals and that they had:

*Refused to give the approval to a number of new GM foods,

*Stopped processing applications for new GMOs,

*Not taken action to stop EU member states banning GM products.

In 2006, WTO dispute panels ruled that the EU had put in place an illegal moratorium. Canada and the EU continued discussions as the EU requested more time to address the outcome of the WTO ruling.

European Union Member States are clashing with the European Commission over the approval of GMOs. The European Commission has approved 21 new GM crops since the WTO dispute was filed in 2003, while European countries continue to ban some GM crops. According to Monsanto, as of March of 2009, the European Commission had actually approved the last of the GM seeds used in Canada. Yet six European Union member states have banned the cultivation of Monsanto's GM corn MON810

Click here to read Canadian Government Press Release July 15
http://w01.international.gc.ca/minpub/publication.aspx?publication_id=387393รข‘©=eng&docnum=195

Click here to read the European Union Press Release July 15
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/09/1142&format=HTML

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