14 Trade conﬂict over genetically modiﬁed organisms Thomas Bernauer and Philipp Aerni In 2003 the USA, seconded by Argentina and Canada, initiated litigation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the European Union’s regulatory policy for genetically modiﬁed organisms (GMOs). The three plaintiﬀs claimed that the EU’s GMO policy was creating illegal trade restrictions. Speciﬁcally, they argued (1) that the EU had implemented a de facto moratorium on approval of new biotech crop varieties; that (2) the EU had failed to approve some particular GM crops for which US ﬁrms were seeking approval; and (3) that several EU countries were unilaterally banning the import and marketing of GM crops that had been approved at the EU level. The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel’s verdict (a 2000-page document!), issued in September 2006, supports the plaintiﬀs’ position to a large extent and asks the EU to bring its GMO approval process in line with WTO rules. As of December 2007, it appeared very unlikely that the EU would be willing or able to comply with the WTO verdict. The EU’s GMO legislation had been overhauled even before the WTO panel issued its verdict. But the EU decisionmaking process for GMO approvals has remained complex and subject to political considerations rather than scientiﬁc risk assessment alone: it involves the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which has an advisory role, as well as the EU Commission and Council of Ministers, which hold the decision-making authority. Why does the...
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