EU Regulation of GMOs

EU Regulation of GMOs

Law and Decision Making for a New Technology

Biotechnology Regulation series

Maria Lee

This book explores the EU’s elaborate regulatory framework for GMOs, which extends far beyond the process of their authorisation (or not) for the EU market, embracing disparate legal disciplines including intellectual property, consumer protection and civil liability. The regulation of GMOs also highlights questions of EU legitimacy in a context of multi-level governance, both internally towards national and local government, and externally in a world where technologies and their regulation have global impacts.

Chapter 6: The Global Context of International Trade

Maria Lee

Subjects: environment, biotechnology, environmental law, law - academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical law, environmental law, european law, regulation and governance


INTRODUCTION The most striking element of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General’s Yale speech on ‘trade and sustainable development’ is not his light treatment of a complex issue, or even his complacency about environmental impacts (‘The GATTs have already been relatively greened, and if we accomplish the Doha Round, we would green them some more!’). Most striking is Pascal Lamy’s very easy acceptance that the ‘trade and sustainable development’ debate is about ‘values that could cross national borders’.1 This acceptance that trade is not just about trade, and is not simply a technical exercise that can be isolated from politics or the pursuit of other social goods, has been rather hard won. But quite what to do with this knowledge is still difficult. Whilst the WTO does conscientiously provide space for members to explain measures falling foul of trade rules on the basis of non-economic values, some of those explanations are scarcely heard in an overwhelmingly trade-oriented, liberal economic institution. A workable international consensus on the appropriate role and regulation of GMOs seems very far away. The EU’s caution contrasts sharply with the rapid adoption of the technology in the US and elsewhere. The continued and profound disagreement between these two major economic powers creates real (and realised) potential for international conflict. GMOs are an enormous challenge for the WTO. Respecting the response of democratic systems to citizen concerns, whilst simultaneously maintaining the integrity of international trade rules, is a delicate task, and disagreement over GMOs has massive...

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