Global Ecolabeling Saved -- For Now
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:21:18 -0500

Trade Program Saves Consumers' Right to Know

Just six weeks ago, trade program learned that a massive industry
coalition wanted to use the World Trade Organization (WTO) to
throttle ecolabeling. Ecolabels are the symbols and labels that tell
shoppers that wood furniture, organic food, computers and other
products are made with environmentally preferable methods.

Representing 2,900 companies with combined sales of $1 trillion per
year, the industry coalition wanted the United States Trade
Representative (USTR) to give the WTO new powers to judge
ecolabels' environmental benefits. The coalition claimed that consumer
information about the environmental impacts of products restricts
trade. But their real goal, they admitted, was to eliminate ecolabeling
altogether. Had the coalition succeeded, the WTO would have taken a
giant step toward becoming a global EPA -- but an EPA beholden to
corporations, not the environment.

In response, environmentalists mounted a concerted mini-campaign
that won a commitment from the USTR to hold off on the industry
proposal when it meets with other WTO representatives in Geneva this
week. But the fight is not yet over. Industry could try other tactics --
for instance, getting another country to propose the same restrictions.
So let's celebrate a victory, but remain vigilant. For more info, contact
Dan Seligman at the Sierra Club (202) 675-2387.