William Engdahl: WTO, GMO and Total Spectrum Dominance


Richard Moore


WTO, GMO and Total Spectrum Dominance

WTO rules put free-trade of agribusiness above national health concerns

By F. William Engdahl

March 29, 2006

In February, a private organization with unique powers over world 
industry, trade and agriculture, issued a Preliminary Draft Ruling on 
a three-year-old case. The case was brought by the Bush 
Administration in May 2003 against European Union rules hindering the 
spread of genetically-engineered plants and foods. The WTO ruling, 
which is to be final in December, will have more influence over life 
and death on this planet than most imagine.

The ruling was issued by a special three-man tribunal of the World 
Trade Organization, in Geneva Switzerland. The WTO decision will open 
the floodgates to the forced introduction of genetically-manipulated 
plants and food products-- GMO, or genetically-modified organisms as 
they are technically known-- into the world's most important 
agriculture production region, the European Union.

The WTO case arose from a formal complaint filed by the governments 
of the United States, Canada and Argentina-three of the world's most 
GMO-polluted areas.

The WTO three-judge panel, chaired by Christian Haberli, a mid-level 
Swiss Agriculture Office bureaucrat, ruled that the EU had applied a 
'de facto' moratorium on approvals of GMO products between June 1999 
and August 2003, contradicting Brussels' claim that no such 
moratorium existed. The WTO judges argued the EU was 'guilty' of not 
following EU rules, causing 'undue delay' in following WTO 

The secretive WTO tribunal also ruled, according to the leaked 
document, that in terms of product-specific measures, the completion 
of formal EU government approval to plant specific GMO plants had 
also been unduly delayed in the cases of 24 of 27 specific GMO 
products that the European Commission in Brussels had before it.

The WTO tribunal recommended that the WTO Dispute Settlement Body 
(DSB), the world trade policeman, call on the EU to bring its 
practices 'into conformity with its obligations under the (WTO's) SPS 
Agreement.' Failure to comply with WTO demands can result in hundreds 
of millions dollars in annual fines.

Trade über Alles

SPS stands for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. On the surface it 
sounds as if health concerns were part of the WTO considerations. The 
reality is the opposite. Only minimal health standards are to be 
allowed to be enforced under WTO free trade rules, and any nation 
attempting anything more strict, such as the EU ban on import of US 
hormone-fed beef, can be found guilty by WTO of an 'unfair restraint 
of trade.'

Today the EU must pay a fine of $150 million yearly to maintain its 
ban on the US hormone-fed beef. WTO rules in effect put free-trade 
interests of agribusiness above national health concerns. That means, 
de facto, that the EU Commission must complete its approval process 
for the 24 outstanding applications to plant GMO crops in Europe once 
the final ruling is made later this year.

That will mean a flood of new GMO products in EU agriculture. 
Monsanto, Syngenta and other GMO multinationals have already taken 
advantage of lax national rules in new EU member countries such as 
Poland to get the GMO 'foot-in-the door.' Now it will be far easier 
for them. Pro-GMO governments such as that of Angela Merkel in 
Germany can claim they are only following WTO 'orders.'

What is the significance of this WTO ruling, assuming it remains as 
is in final form by December? It represents a major, dangerous wedge 
into largely GMO-free EU agriculture, permitting powerful 
agribusiness multinationals such as Monsanto, Dow Chemicals or DuPont 
to overrun national or regional efforts to halt the march of GMO. For 
this reason, it is potentially the most damaging decision in the 
history of world trade agreements.

A strategic Washington matter

The case first came before the World Trade Organization in a filing 
made by the Bush Administration in May 2003, just as the military 
occupation of Iraq was entering a new phase. The US President held a 
rare press conference to tell the world that the US was formally 
charging the EU, accusing the EU 'moratorium' on GMO approval of 
being a cause of starvation in Africa. Their twisted logic argued 
that so long as a major industrialized region such as the EU resisted 
planting GMO crops domestically, it caused sceptical African 
governments to harden their resistance to US food aid in the form of 
GMO crops. That, Bush charged, was causing unnecessary 'starvation' 
in Africa because some countries refused USDA food aid in form of GMO 
crop surpluses.

The issue of breaking resistance barriers in the European Union to 
the proliferation of GMO crops has been a matter of the highest 
strategic priority for those controlling policy in Washington since 
1992 when then-President George H.W. Bush, the father of the current 
President, issued an Executive Order proclaiming GMO plants such as 
soybeans or GMO corn to be 'substantially equivalent' to ordinary 
corn or soybeans, and, therefore, not needing any special health 
safety study or testing.

That 'substantial equivalence' ruling by President Bush in 1992 
opened the floodgates to the unregulated spread of GMO across the 
American agriculture landscape. As basis for its 2003 WTO filing 
against the EU, Washington, on behalf of agribusiness interests 
including Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and others, charged the EU with 
violation of the American 'substantial equivalence' doctrine!

So long as the world's second most powerful agriculture trade region, 
the EU, firmly resisted the introduction of untested GM plants, the 
global spread of the GMO revolution would remain strategically 
crippled. For the past decades, breaking up the system of domestic 
agriculture protection of the EU, centered around its Common 
Agriculture Program, has been a strategic political and trade goal of 
the US Government and US-based agribusiness. The creation of the WTO 
in 1995, a result of the GATT Uruguay Round trade talks during the 
1980's, opened the possibility for the first time of forcing the EU 
to drop its defenses on US threat of sanctions.

The secret process behind WTO

When the final WTO Panel ruling is published and official this coming 
December, assuming no major changes take place in the 1,050 page 
preliminary ruling of February 7, a major barrier to the global 
spread of largely untested and highly unstable genetically modified 
foods will be gone. This will become unstoppable, as it was in the 
USA, unless political pressure from a sceptical European population 
forces the EU Commission to pay a WTO fine or penalty, in lieu of 
acceding to the demands of the WTO.

It's relevant to ask what is this body, WTO which exercises such 
enormous power over laws of nations? What is its mandate and who 
controls its policies?

The negotiations of world trade since the establishment of the 
Bretton Woods postwar monetary system at the end of World War II, had 
been made through a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a 
series of trade rounds on specific issues between specific member 
countries. In September 1986, on US-led pressure, the Uruguay Round 
of GATT was launched in Punta del Este Uruguay. The result was 
creation of a new, powerful private international agency, the WTO.

In late 1994 the US Congress voted to join the WTO, the new permanent 
trade body established by the GATT Uruguay Round. There was almost no 
debate. It was clear in Washington who would dominate the new body. 
Unlike GATT which had no enforcement power, and which required 
unanimous member vote for sanctions, the WTO would be given tough 
sanction and enforcement powers. More important, how it reached 
decisions was to remain secret, with no democratic oversight. The 
most vital issues of economic life on the planet were to be decided 
behind closed doors in Geneva WTO headquarters or in Washington and 
Brussels. It could choose its 'experts' as it saw fit and ignore what 
evidence it saw fit. In the EU GMO dispute, three of four initial 
scientific experts chosen were from either US or UK institutions, two 
countries most in favour of GMO. (1)

Two years earlier, in 1992, at the UN Convention on Biological 
Diversity (CBD) in Rio, 175 UN governments signed a convention to on 
the safe handling and treatment of GMOs, a major vote of the world 
community to examine the health and economic impacts of GMO 
agriculture before it could be allowed in a country. The US 
Government of President George Bush Sr. aggressively opposed the CBD, 
arguing that a Biosafety Protocol was unnecessary. Under the CBD 
agreement, a country could prohibit GMO imports.

The GMO industry, led by Monsanto, DuPont and Dow of the US, 
sabotaged this agreement. A group of six countries controlling the 
world Biotech or GMO market-Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia 
Chile and USA-- forced a clause into the CBD text which would 
subordinate the Biosafety Protocol to the WTO. They argued that 
limiting trade based on 'unproven' biosafety concerns should be 
considered a 'barrier to trade' under WTO rules!

Traditional liability law holds that a new product must first be 
proven safe before being allowed on market. This WTO rule placing the 
burden of proof not on the producer of a new GMO product, but on the 
potential victims, turned prudence and health safety issues on its 
head. In the end the US destroyed the Biosafety Protocol by refusing 
to include soybeans and corn, 99% of all GMO products, making the 
Protocol near worthless regarding GMO health issues.

The WTO serves as the weapon for the powerful coalition of Washington 
and the powerful private GMO giants, led by Monsanto. Earlier in 
1992, Bush, on advice of Monsanto and the emerging US GM giant 
companies, ruled that GM organisms were 'substantially equivalent' to 
ordinary seeds for soybeans or corn and such. As 'substantially 
equivalent,' GM seeds required no special testing or health controls 
before being put on the market. This was crucial to the future of 
Monsanto and the GMO lobby.

By Presidential Executive Order, the US had defined GMO seeds as 
harmless and hence not needing to be regulated for health and safety. 
It made sure this principle was carried over into the new WTO in the 
form of the WTO's Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), which 
stated, 'Food standards and measures aimed at protecting people from 
pests or animals can potentially be used as a deliberate barrier to 
trade.' The US charge against the EU in the present GMO dispute 
charged the EU with violation of the SPS agreement of WTO.

Other WTO rules in the Agreement to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) 
forbid member countries from using domestic standards or testing, 
food safety laws, product standards, calling them an 'unfair barrier 
to trade.'

The impact of those two US-mandated WTO rulings meant that Washington 
could threaten that any government restricting import of GM plants on 
grounds they might pose threats to health and safety of their 
population, could be found to be in violation of WTO free trade rules!

This is what the US Government, on behalf of its agribusiness private 
corporations has done against the EU restrictions on GMO.

Under the WTO's Technical Barriers to Trade, the US has argued that 
no labelling of GMO plants was required, as the plants have not been 
'substantially transformed' from normal or non-GM soya, corn or other 
plants. This conveniently ignored the fact that Washington 
simultaneously insisted that GMOs, due to the genetic engineering 
process, are sufficiently transformed, i.e. NOT equivalent, to be 
patented as 'original', and protected under WTO TRIPS intellectual 
property patent rights. (2).

The Agreement on Agriculture

The heart of the WTO machinery is the WTO Agreement on Agriculture 
(AoA), which under the sheep's wool of 'free trade,' hides the wolf 
of private agri-business GMO monopoly power. Under AoA rules, since 
1995 poorer developing countries have been forced to eliminate quotas 
and slash protective tariffs, at the same time the Bush 
Administration voted to increase its subsidies to US agribusiness 
farming by $80 billions.

The net effect has been to allow the powerful monopoly of five grain 
trading giants-Cargill, ADM, Bunge, Andre (formerly) and Louis 
Dreyfus-to dramatically increase the dumping of food commodities 
globally, ruining millions of family farmers worldwide in the 
process, while maximizing their private corporate profits.

The AoA of WTO ignores the reality of agriculture markets which are 
qualitatively different from, say, the market for cars or CD's. 
Agriculture and national food safety and security are at the heart of 
a nation's sovereignty, and its obligation to its own citizens to 
support the basics of life. Agriculture is unique in this respect, 
along with water rights.

The AoA was written by the US-dominated agribusiness giants such as 
Cargill, ADM, Monsanto and DuPont, to serve the agenda of these 
global supranational private companies, whose sole aim is to maximize 
profits and market monopoly, regardless of human consequences. Their 
focus is the domination of the $1 trillion global agriculture trade. 
The actual author of the AoA of WTO was Daniel Amstutz, a former Vice 
President of Cargill Grain, who was at the time in the Washington US 
Trade Representative's Office, before going back to the grain 

Who controls WTO?

The essential control of WTO decisions, decisions which have the full 
power of international law and can force governments to repeal local 
laws for health, safety and such is held by private interests, by a 
global US-centered agribusiness cartel. There are no public or 
democratic checks on the power of WTO.

On paper, WTO rules are made by a consensus of all 134 member 
countries. In reality, four countries, led by the United States, 
decide all important agriculture and other trade issues. As in the 
International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Washington exercises 
decisive control behind the scenes. And it does so in the interest of 
the private agribusiness cartel.

The four WTO controlling countries, known as the QUAD countries, are 
USA, Canada, Japan and the EU. In the QUAD, in turn, the giant 
agri-business multinationals exercise controlling influence, most 
clearly in Washington.

The WTO is designed to impose the wishes of giant private companies 
over the legitimate democratic will of entire nations and 
duly-elected governments. WTO has one mission: enforce rules of a 
'free trade,' an agenda which is in no way genuinely 'free' but 
rather suits the needs of agribusiness giants.

Under the secretive WTO rules, countries can challenge another's laws 
for restricting their trade. The case is then heard by a tribunal or 
court of three trade bureaucrats. They are usually influential 
corporate lawyers with pro-free trade bias. The lawyers have no 
conflict of interest rules binding them, such that a Monsanto lawyer 
can rule on a case of material interest to Monsanto.

Further, there is no rule that the judges of WTO respect any national 
laws of any country. The three judges meet in secret without 
revealing the time or location. All court documents are confidential 
and are not published unless one party releases it. It is a modern 
version of the Spanish Inquisition, but with far more power.

The EU banned the import of US beef treated with growth and other 
hormones, and the US lodged a formal WTO complaint. There was a long 
report from independent scientists showing that the hormones added to 
US beef were 'cancer-causing'. The WTO three judge panel ruled that 
the EU did not present a 'valid' scientific case to refuse import, 
and the EU was forced to pay $150 million annually for lost US 
profits. (4).

The powerful private interests who control WTO agriculture policy 
prefer to remain in the background as little-publicized NGO's. One of 
the most influential in creating the WTO is a little-publicized 
organization called the IPC-- the International Food and Agricultural 
Trade Policy Council, shortened to International Policy Council.

The IPC was created in 1987 to lobby for the GATT agriculture rules 
of WTO at the Uruguay GATT talks. The IPC demanded removal of 'high 
tariff' barriers in developing countries, remaining silent on the 
massive government subsidy to agribusiness in the USA.

A look at the IPC membership explains what interests it represents. 
The IPC Chairman is Robert Thompson, former Assistant Secretary US 
Department of Agriculture and former Presidential economic adviser. 
Also included in the IPC are Bernard Auxenfans, Chief Operating 
Officer, Monsanto Global Agricultural Company and Past Chairman of 
Monsanto Europe S.A.; Allen Andreas of ADM/Toepfer; Andrew Burke of 
Bunge (US); Dale Hathaway former USDA official and head IFPRI (US).

Other IPC members include Heinz Imhof, chairman of Syngenta (CH); Rob 
Johnson of Cargill and USDA Agriculture Policy Advisory Council; 
Franz Fischler Former Commissioner for Agriculture, European 
Commission; Guy Legras (France) former EU Director General 
Agriculture; Donald Nelson of Kraft Foods (US); Joe O'Mara of USDA, 
Hiroshi Shiraiwa of Mitsui & Co Japan; Jim Starkey former Assistant 
US Trade Representative; Hans Joehr, Nestle's head of agriculture; 
Jerry Steiner of Monsanto (US). Members Emeritus include Ann Veneman, 
former Bush Administration Secretary of Agriculture and former board 
member of Calgene, creator of the Flavr Savr genetically-modified 

The IPC is controlled by US-based agribusiness giants which benefit 
from the rules they drafted for WTO trade. In Washington itself, the 
USDA no longer represents interests of small family farmers. It is 
the lobby of giant global agribusiness. The USDA is a revolving door 
for these private agribusiness giants to shape friendly policies. GMO 
policy is the most blatant example.

Brussels also dominated by GMO lobby

The power of the giant GMO companies and US-centered agribusiness 
companies extends to control of key policies in Brussels at the 
European Commission. Typical is the fact that former EU Agricuolture 
Commissioner Franz Fischler is a member of the powerful pro-GMO IPC.

For years it has been common knowledge among EU farm experts that 
grain policy was not set by national governments but by the Big Five 
private grain traders led by Cargill and ADM. Now the powerful weight 
of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and the GMO lobby has been added. This 
is clear in the recent announcement of a new EU program, SAFEFOODS, a 
successor to the controversial pro-GMO ENTRANSFOOD project. 
ENTRANSFOOD was set up to 'facilitate market introduction of GMO's in 
Europe, and therefore to bring the European (sic) industry into a 
competitive position.'

ENTRANSFOOD, now called the more innocuous SAFEFOODS, claims to 
combine different views on GMO food. In reality, its key Working 
Group 1, responsible for 'Safety Testing of Transgenic Foods' 
consists of representatives not from independent consumer 
organizations, but from Monsanto, Unilever, Bayer Corp., Syngenta and 
BIBRA International, a consultancy close to agribusiness and the 
pharmaceutical industry.

As well, Dr. Harry Kuiper, a Dutch scientist member of the food 
safety GMO group of SAFEFOODS in Brussels, is Coordinator of 
SAFEFOODS. Kuiper chairs the EU European Food Safety Authority GMO 
Panel. He also has also been leading the vicious slander attack 
campaign to discredit genetic scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai who dared to 
go public with alarming evidence of organ damage from rats fed GMO 
potatoes and was fired on the intervention of Monsanto in 1999.(5).

The WTO today is nothing more than the global policeman for the 
powerful GMO lobby and the agribusiness firms tied to it.

With the new German coalition government under Chancellor Angela 
Merkel and Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer now officially on 
record supporting the role of Germany as a future leader in biotech 
crops and GMO, the impact of the latest WTO ruling on food safety in 
the EU and beyond has put European and hence, world food safety world 
in danger.

1.Abreu, Marcelo de Paiva, "Brazil, the GATT and the WTO: History and 
Prospects", September 1998, Department of Economics, PUC, Rio de 
Janeiro, No. 392.
2. GMOs and the WTO: Overruling the Right to say No,' By World 
Development Movement, November 1999, www.wdm.org.uk .
3. Murphy, Sophia, 'WTO Agreement on Agriculture: Suitable Model for 
a Global Food System?' Foreign Policy in Focus, v.7, no. 8, June 2002.
4. Montague, Peter, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO, The WTO and Free Trade, 
Environmental Research Foundation in www.garynull.com .
5. PR Operation on GM Foods again exposes EFSA industry-bias," Press 
release, 29.12.2004. www.gmwatch.org .

F. William Engdahl is a Global Research Contributing Editor and 
author of the book, 'A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics 
and the New World Order,' Pluto Press Ltd. He has just completed the 
manuscript for a book on GMO titled, 'Seeds of Destruction: The 
Hidden Political Agenda Behind GMO'. He may be contacted through his 
website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole 
responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of 
the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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