Law and Decision Making for a New Technology
Biotechnology Regulation series
Chapter 6: The Global Context of International Trade
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...