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Martin Frids tal i Seattle

Speech at the Seminar in Seattle on December 2, 1999 
"The Impact of Globalization on Food Safety"

  • Consumers International
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest
  • Consumers Union
  • Japan Offspring Fund
  • Swedish Konsument-Forum
Globalisation and the case for real consumer involvement

For European consumers, there are specific issues that need to be addressed before we can accept the WTO regime and further trade liberalisation. We are concerned by the lack of respect for consumer rights. We wish to participate and to be represented on all levels, also on the international level.

Several areas related to food and agriculture are on the proposed agenda in Seattle. For example, we argue strongly for the precautionary principle to be respected by the EU and other trading partners. We need to look very closely at the TBT agreement (technical barriers to trade) and the SPS agreement (sanitary and phytosanitary measures) and how they apply to food trade and consumer protection. In the case of hormon meat from the United States, the WTO has already ruled that the EU ban is illegal. This is unacceptable for European consumers. 

We are concerned about low international food standards and we call for a review of both the TBT and SPS agreements. Also, the TRIPs (trade related intellectual property rights) agreement is used to patent seed and genetic material. In Europe, this is still a very controversial idea.

WTO may challenge old and new national health laws and make it impossible to ban imports of dangerous or undesirable products. Sweden has a ban on antibiotics in animal feed which may be challenged by WTO. European laws regarding GMO food and GMO labels may or may not be WTO compatible. This uncertainty has in my personal opinion fueled the strong resistance to GMO foods as we wonder what happened to our democracy. These are concerns we share with consumers all over the World. 

In Sweden, consumer organisations have recently been able to discuss novel issues such as GMO foods directly with industry and retail chains. A dialogue helps both producers and
consumers understand the issues. We intend to fight for our rights on every level. The challenge of globalisation may be the most rewarding so far as we gain real influence over decisions on the international level.

Martin Frid
Consumers International 

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