办事指南

Impasse

点击量:   时间:2019-03-07 12:01:01

By Andy Coghlan RIOT police and protesters weren’t the only adversaries fighting it out at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last week. Inside the hall itself there was stony resistance to US-led proposals for the WTO to regulate trade in agricultural biotechnology. Other delegations, led by those from Europe, were adamant that they wanted the UN’s Biosafety Protocol to regulate the introduction of genetically modified food, plants and animals. This protocol, drafted after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, advocates universal labelling of GM produce. It also says countries should be able to ban any GM material they consider a threat to the environment. But the “Miami group” of nations—the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile—objects to the current draft, due for revision in Montreal next month. The Miami group doesn’t want trade in GM products strangled by environmental considerations, and so argues that the WTO should handle matters. In Seattle, the US and Canada proposed creating a “biotechnology working group”, which would study the scope for regulating biotechnology through the WTO. Initially, the European Union’s trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy, seemed to accept the proposal. “Carefully controlled discussion on this issue in the WTO is justified,” he announced. But the EU’s member governments soon slapped him down. “Lamy went beyond his remit and trade ministers were very angry,” says a spokesman for the British government. “They had to rein him back in.” In the end, the EU issued a strongly worded statement that effectively killed the US proposal: “We reject requests to deal with biotechnology exclusively on trade grounds. We reject any attempt to undermine the EU’s right to regulate, and we reject any attempt to derail, divert or delay the biosafety talks.” However, the EU did agree to the WTO forming a working party to conduct a “fact-finding” mission into biotechnology. The impasse in Seattle coincided with the announcement of plans to further consolidate the agribiotech industry into a handful of multinational companies. The Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca aims to combine its agrochemical and biotech operations with those of Switzerland’s Novartis to create Syngenta. Syngenta, based in Basle, will be the world’s largest agrochemicals company, commanding 24 per cent of the global market. The nearest competitor, Aventis of France, has 16 per cent, followed by Monsanto of the US with 13 per cent. Syngenta will also be the world’s third largest supplier of seeds. Already, rumours are rife that the new company could be snapped up by one of its rivals. And if the purchaser were an American firm,