Redefining the Rules of the Economic Game
New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series
Edited by Marie-Laure Djelic and Sigrid Quack
Chapter 9: Multilateral Rulemaking: Transatlantic Struggles Around Genetically Modified Food
Jason McNichol and Jabril Bensedrine INTRODUCTION Until recently, decision making over environmental, health and safety regulations remained the purview of national governments and was largely excluded from multilateral trade negotiations. But in recent years such issues have become increasingly common sources of conflict in international trade. Debates over issues ranging from hormone-treated beef to genetically-modified crops have become the locus of major multilateral disputes, especially between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US). The nature and outcomes of these disputes are not just of significance to policy makers – they also offer valuable insights into the mechanisms through which emerging ‘global’ norms, rules and structures are both forged and contested over time by actors grounded in particular national institutional spaces. The manner in which these conflicts unfold demands that scholars of international politics develop new tools to understand how domestic and transnational regulatory areas are co-constituted and influence one another over time. The present chapter seeks to shed light on current conflicts over multilateral governance by bringing a sociological perspective to bear on recent disputes over the regulation of a particular type of environmental, health and safety standard. We look at labelling of genetically modified (GM) food, and more specifically, GM soy. The case of soy is interesting for several reasons. Soy derivatives are common in a variety of foodstuffs (from chocolate to cereals to prepared meals) and are a widely traded global commodity. As the US (the world’s largest soy exporter) began actively exporting GM varieties in 1996,...
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