Three officials who will judge on the controversial transatlantic trade dispute on genetically modified (GM) foods will today (Wednesday 2nd June) begin to take evidence behind closed doors. Friends of the Earth Europe last week delivered more than 100,000 signatures to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the GM dispute, which it says the WTO should not be dealing with as it is “secretive, undemocratic and unfit to serve in the interests of the general public”.

The trade dispute started last year when the US, Canada and Argentina lodged a complaint with the WTO about the de facto moratorium and a number of national bans of GM foods and crops in Europe . After failing to reach any agreement the WTO selected three judges who meet today to take evidence from both sides.

The public has no right to participate in proceedings and the judges will rule later this year whether Europeans must accept more GM foods or face financial penalties. An appeal against the decision is likely with a final ruling expected in 2005.

Last month the European Commission approved a GM sweet corn for sale, against the wishes of the European public and without the support of Europe ‘s member states. However the Swiss-based biotech giant Syngenta has since stated it has no plans to market the tinned corn, citing resistance from the food industry.

Friends of the Earth Europe’s Trade Campaigner Alexandra Wandel said: “Vital decisions about the food we eat are being made behind closed doors in a secret location. People will today see the World Trade Organisation for what it really is: secretive, undemocratic and unfit to serve in the interests of the general public. Decisions about the food we eat should be made in Europe and not in the White House or the WTO.”

Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe + 49 172 748 3953 (mobile)