BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) – The aggressive attempt by the US administration to force genetically modified (GM) foods into the European Union (EU) is starting to weaken, according to Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest environmental grassroots network.

For the first time since the trade war started last month, the two sides will meet tomorrow June 19 in Geneva, as part of an official consultation process at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The US started proceedings against the EU’s de facto moratorium on GM foods through the WTO on 13th May 2003, along with Argentina, Canada and Egypt, with the support of nine additional countries. But as the trade war reaches its first juncture, Friends of the Earth pointed out that the US-led coalition and its arguments are “weak and on shaky ground”, as the facts below show:

  • Egypt backtracked and decided not to start proceedings at the WTO alongside the US-led coalition [1]
  • El Salvador and Honduras were among the nine supporting countries but have refrained from taking part in the WTO consultations (they are not included in the list of countries taking part in the WTO consultations, according to the WTO website)
  • Canada has distanced itself from the US by requesting a separate consultation with the EU.
  • India, a big agricultural country, requested to take part in the consultations. India is in the process of developing legislation on GMOs.
  • Last week it was announced that the UN Biosafety Protocol was, a UN treaty regulating biotech crops, will become law in September 2003 [2].
  • Many of the countries originally supporting the US paradoxically have either bans or moratoria for GM products in place. They include: including New Zealand (moratorium on planting GMOs), Australia (regional bans), Peru (ban on GMO crops), El Salvador (ban on GMO seeds) and Mexico (ban on GM corn) [3].

Ricardo Navarro, chair of Friends of the Earth International said:

”The US-led attempt to force-feed the world genetically modified foods
appears to be losing support. The right of countries to take a precautionary approach on any new technology is fundamental to protecting people and our environment. Friends of the Earth urges Europe to stand firm in this dispute not only for its own sake but also for the increasing number of world citizens who are concerned about GM.”


Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe trade coordinator,
tel: +49 172 748 39 53 (m) or email

Ricardo Navarro, Chairman Friends of the Earth International.
Tel: +503-2200046 or +503-2206480 or email:

Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International. tel: +32-477 39 14
96(m) or email


[1] ‘Egypt Abandons U.S. Challenge to EU Ban on Gene-Altered Food’ by Bloomberg, May 28, 2003

[2] UN Environment Programme release: Treaty on international trade in GMOs to become law.

[3] Here are the details of the national or regional bans on GMOs in
Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador and India:


Four Australian States have currently placed a moratorium on GMO crops:Western Australia and Tasmania for 5 years; New South Wales 3 years and Victoria for 1 year. South Australia – won’t allow planting this year but has not placed a moratorium. The reasons vary between adopting a more precautionary approach and preserving marketing opportunities.

New Zealand

In 2001, the New Zealand Parliament passed an amendment to the HSNO Act to temporarily prevent applications to release GM organisms and to make specific controls on field testing mandatory for a two-year period. It was imposed to give New Zealand the time to investigate potential benefits from GM technology and explore ways to more effectively inimise any risks.


In a letter to the European Commission the Peruvian Ministry of Trade stated that according to the ‘Law on Transgenic Foods and Genetically Modified Organisms’, it is strictly prohibited in Peru to import, by any means, produce, sell and/or market transgenic foods and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for human or animal consumption.


Mexico suspended authorizations for large-scale commercial growing of genetically-modified corn within its territory, due to ongoing discussions on their potential impact on wild relatives and traditional crops. Mexico has also ratified the Biosafety Protocol.

El Salvador

A Seeds law approved on the 30th of September 2001 forbids cultivation of GM seeds.


India adopted or is intending to adopt legislation on genetically-modified organisms, in accordance with their recent ratification of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol.