CANCUN (MEXICO) – As hundreds of small farmers, indigenous people’s groups and landless peasants start preparations to descend on Cancun in then next few days, Friends of the Earth added its voice to the groups protesting against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its new rules that promise a devastating impact on the world’s biological and cultural diversity.

The WTO draft agreements on areas like agriculture, services and intellectual property rights will lead to increased deforestation and the replacement of traditional agricultural crops, seeds and livestock by large-scale monocultures, including those based on genetically modified (GM) crops. [1]

The most devastating impacts would come from agricultural trade agreements, especially if they would be based upon the recent US- European Union joint proposal for the modalities of agricultural negotiations. This proposal sets the scene for drastic market liberalization in agricultural products, while it leaves virtually untouched the massive direct and indirect subsidies these trading blocks are providing to their own export-oriented farmers (with the exception of a limited category of direct export subsidies).

The result will be devastating for small farmers in developing countries, who will be unable to compete with subsidized large-scale producers in industrialized countries. These small-farmers are the main custodians of the world’s agrobiodiversity, which consists of thousands of plant and animal varieties and related traditional knowledge. When these farmers disappear, this wealth of biological and cultural diversity disappears too.

“The large-scale, export-oriented agriculture that is promoted in current WTO proposals is also the main cause of deforestation, especially in tropical areas,” said Simone Lovera of Friends of the Earth International.

“It is now widely recognized that the recent increase of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon is mainly caused by the rapid expansion of soy bean production for the – mainly European – export market,” Lovera added.

The traditional knowledge of small farmers and Indigenous Peoples relating to the use and conservation of biodiversity is also being threatened by the growing practice of so-called “biopiracy”, the practice of Northern biotechnology industries to patent seeds, traditional knowledge and other elements of biological and cultural diversity of the South.

Developing countries have demanded a review of the WTO’s Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement to protect themselves against such biopiracy. As part of these negotiations, African countries have called for a prohibition of patenting of life forms.

Friends of the Earth International calls upon all countries to put a halt to such forms of privatization and commercialization of biological diversity. We call upon WTO members to protect small farmers and their agrobiodiversity against the devastating impacts of trade liberalization and prohibit the patenting of life forms and other forms of biopiracy.


Alberto Villareal +52 9981 204585
Ronnie Hall +52 9981 204587 or +44-777-4169145
Simone Lovera +52 9981204476

[1] For more information please read the Friends of the Earth International report ‘Trade and people’s food sovereignty’ at