Human Rights, Trade, Patents, Health and the Environment
Chapter 8: Phantom risks and legitimate concerns: biotechnology and international trade law
As trade in biotech products grows, restrictive sanitary and phytosanitary measures as well as restrictions aimed at the protection of public morals turn into a salient issue in international trade law. The WTO Agreement establishes strict standards for scientifically sound risk assessment and risk management, leaving a limited corridor for the application of the precautionary principle. By contrast, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and EU Law provide a broad corridor for social and economic considerations, which might fuel new controversies, e.g. as to genetically-modified crops. The interaction of these standards triggered international disputes, such as EC-Biotech before the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. Ethical debates surrounding biotech products might additionally pose new challenges to the interpretation and application of the GATT general exceptions. Beyond the WTO, new regional trade agreements have included provisions specifically tailored to address biotech products.
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