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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 15: GM foods and global trade

David Robertson


David Robertson In the case of genetically modified crops, opponents will not accept any level of risk. This controversy is really an ideological and political battle in a wider war against unfettered free trade, globalisation and multinationals. You do not win such battles with science. You win them with propaganda. (New Scientist editorial, 22 May 1999) Public campaigns opposing genetically modified crops and foods, promoted uncritically – and almost universally – by the media, are already affecting international trade flows and threatening the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which means the rules-based multilateral trading system. Some European governments have introduced bans on imports of agricultural commodities that may contain GM varieties, while EU environment ministers have introduced a de facto moratorium on new trial plantings of GM crops until new rules authorizing them have been approved. These could be delayed until 2002. In Japan new food labelling laws have been introduced for 30 foods, while in Australia new labelling regulations are being considered for foods that may contain GM constituents. The outcry by non-government organizations (NGOs) against GM foods has caused food retail chains in many European countries to remove popular brands of widely used processed foods from their shelves (for example, tomato paste, soya breads and so on). These decisions will affect trade in due course. The storm over GM crops and foods has blown up suddenly in the past year. North American farmers and consumers had accepted their introduction with equanimity since early in the 1990s. Substantial proportions...

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