GENEVA (SWITZERLAND) – Environmental campaigners today declared a ‘bio-hazard’ area around the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in protest at the WTO dispute over Genetically Modified food. Campaigners delivered a petition to the WTO signed by more than 100,000 citizens from 90 countries and more than 544 organizations representing 48 million people. 
Signatories, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and French small farmers’ leader Jose Bové, say the WTO should not undermine the sovereign right of any country to protect its citizens and the environment from Genetically Modified (GM) foods and crops.
The delivery of the petition (a ‘citizen’s objection’) to the WTO comes as part of a global ‘bite-back’ campaign against a complaint filed at the WTO by the US, Argentina and Canada a year ago. These countries accuse the European Union of blocking trade in GM crops and foods and May 25 is the official deadline for WTO countries to submit evidence in the complaint.
The signatures were delivered after the WTO’s public symposium (25-27 May) was opened by WTO director-general Supachai Panitchpakdi and European chief trade negotiator Pascal Lamy, among others.
Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaigner Alexandra Wandel said in Geneva: “Tens of thousands of individuals around the world have signed this petition to send a clear message to the WTO to take their hands off our food. The World Trade Organisation has no right to impose GM crops and food on any country. All around the world, including in the US, Argentina and Canada, people have backed this call. We will not be bullied by the United States, biotech companies or the WTO.”
Campaigners from Friends of the Earth International, which initiated this ‘bite-back: WTO hands off our food’ campaign, held two banners saying ‘WTO: Hands Off our Food’ and ‘WTO = bio-hazard’
Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation with 68 national member groups in as many countries and more than one million individual members, wants the US, Canada and Argentina to drop their complaint.
In May 2003 the US, Canada and Argentina filed a complaint with the WTO. The countries claim that a European Union de-facto moratorium and various national bans on genetically modified crops made them lose millions of dollars of potential exports.
By mounting this WTO dispute the US and other GM crops exporters are trying to force genetically modified food into the European Union and other parts of the world where citizens have serious and legitimate concerns about the risks of GM foods and crops for consumers, farmers, wildlife and the environment.
If the WTO rules in favour of the US-led coalition the EU faces economic sanctions or must accept more GM food. Such a decision would also make it more difficult for developing countries to protect their citizens from risks associated with GM crops and foods. But it will help biotech corporations access new markets more easily, particularly in the South.
Signatories believe that decisions concerning regulation of international trade in GM organisms should be made in accordance with the UN Biosafety Protocol and not by the World Trade Organisation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT FRIENDS OF THE EARTH IN GENEVA:
In English: Helen Burley + 44- 7778 069930
In French: Ricardo Alvarez, + 44 7810 558245
In German: Markus Steigenberger +49 – 173 923 4747 or Alexandra Wandel, +49 172 748 39 53 or Adrian Bebb +49 (0)1609 490 1163
NOTES TO EDITORS:
 This citizen’s objection was initiated by Friends of the Earth International with the support of ActionAid Alliance, Public Services International, Public Citizen, the International Gender and Trade Network, the French Confédération Paysanne, and the Indian Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.