Brussels, 18 December - Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed today's rejection by EU Environment Ministers of a proposal to force Austria to lift its bans on genetically modified (GM) foods and crops. The proposal was tabled by the European Commission in response to a ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) earlier this year, which stated that the bans broke international trade laws.
Helen Holder, GMO Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Today's vote was a complete rejection of the WTO's ruling on GM foods. This is a major defeat for the biotech industry and their friends in the European Commission. Every country must have the democratic right to protect its citizens and environment. Neither the European Commission nor the WTO should be allowed to force Europeans to eat genetically modified foods."
"The biotech industry's tactics have backfired. It's now time for the European Commission to put the interests of the public and the environment before those of the biotech industry."
The WTO ruling did not rule against GMO bans per se but judged that Austria had not followed the risk assessments needed under the trade-friendly WTO rules. Austria, together with all EU member states, has ratified the UN's Biosafety Protocol which allows countries to ban genetically modified crops if there is a lack of scientific certainty over their safety. The WTO disregarded the Biosafety Protocol because the complainants in the trade dispute (the US, Canada and Argentina) had not ratified it.