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Globalization and the Environment

Risk Assessment and the WTO

Edited by David Robertson and Aynsley Kellow

One of the unforeseen consequences of the WTO agreements has been controversy over risk. This volume explores aspects of risk with special reference to the WTO, where national instruments to reduce risk may conflict with international trade rules. The book is divided into sections dealing with: accounting for risk in trade agreements; risk and the WTO; managing risk in policy making; negotiating experience with risk; national risks and quarantine standards; and managing biotechnology.
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Chapter 14: Government regulations and genetically-modified organisms

Nancy F. Millis


Nancy F. Millis* The development of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) has raised new issues for trade and the consideration and management of risk. Any WTO panel rulings on risk associated with GMOs will depend on risk assessments. This raises many complex questions including social and political prejudices, as is evident in consideration of GMOs at the national level. This chapter outlines the processes being established in one country, Australia, for managing the risks associated with this new technology. Australia has had formal surveillance of genetic engineering since 1975; at first through the Australian Academy of Science. In 1981 the task was assumed by a committee established by the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Science, and in 1987 the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee (GMAC) was established. This is a non-statutory agency, but sanctions for noncompliance apply through withdrawal of government funds and agreed obligations by employers. In January 2000, the Commonwealth Government established the Interim Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (IOGTR) in preparation for legislation which will establish a Gene Technology Regulator within the Department of Health. GMAC will be replaced by the Gene Technology, Technical Advisory Committee (GTTAC) when the legislation is passed but GMAC will continue to operate until that time and will collaborate with the IOGTR. The GMAC operates with 19 members who are recruited from the scientific community and the general public. Members are not representative of special interest groups, but persons were selected for their expertise or knowledge. This ensures that GMAC has access to the most...

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