The Shifting Roles of the EU, the US and California
Edited by David Vogel and Johan Swinnen
Chapter 10: Food Labels and the Environment: Towards Harmonization of EU and US Organic Standards
David E. Winickoff and Kendra Klein INTRODUCTION Food labelling schemes present significant challenges for international harmonization, for they embody contingent governmental policies, consumer and producer values, local knowledge and trade politics. Battles across the Atlantic over the labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), recombinant bovine growth hormone and geographical indicators illustrate these challenges. They also reveal persistent differences between the EU and US within the regulatory domains of the environment, agriculture and food safety. Divergence on food regulation is predicted by scholarship on comparative regulation. This work has noted how culturally specific accountings of risk have fuelled different national conceptions of regulatory problems across the US and Europe (Christoforou, 2004; Krämer, 2004; Jasanoff, 1995, pp. 311–31). Alternatively called political or regulatory culture (Jasanoff, 1986) and regulatory styles (Vogel, 1986), differences across the US and EU have been stark in transatlantic regulatory controversies involving food (Post, 2005). These factors, along with economic ones, make harmonization across the EU and US in the sphere of food regulation particularly difficult.1 Scholars have focused on high-profile ‘food wars’ involving GMOs and hormones in livestock production to the relative exclusion of regulation on organic crops (Weirich, 2007). Compared with conventional crops, there is less trade in organic crops, and labelling regimes are voluntary and positive, making them less likely to trigger trade disputes. Yet the lack of scholarship on the regulatory dynamics of organic agriculture remains a significant gap. The organic label is the earliest, most globally pervasive food label with important environmental...
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