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Can voluntary product-labeling replace trade bans in the case of GMOs?

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Genetically modified (GM) food has raised both health-risk fears and environmental concerns. This has led some countries to ban the trade in such food triggering a great deal of controversy among countries. In this paper we ask under what conditions will voluntary labeling of GM-free food be at least as good as a trade ban? And, under what conditions can providing labels for GM-free food be protectionist? Our main finding is that the merits of a product labeling policy depend crucially on the way food products are differentiated. If they are poorly differentiated from the beginning, a labeling policy will probably not function as good as a trade ban does; while if they are already well differentiated, a labeling policy is likely the optimal policy for the importing country. Finally, as long as consumers' willingness to pay to avoid GM-food is high, a labeling policy is not protectionist. In fact, if products are poorly differentiated from the beginning, foreign firms will probably increase their profit even if they do not choose to label their products.

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Paper provided by Research Department of Statistics Norway in its series Discussion Papers with number 485.

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Date of creation: Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:485

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Keywords: Product-labeling; GMOs; protectionsim; trade policy;

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  1. Amacher, Gregory S. & Koskela, Erkki & Ollikainen, Markku, 2004. "Environmental quality competition and eco-labeling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 284-306, March.
  2. Harhoff, Dietmar & Régibeau, Pierre & Rockett, Katharine, 2001. "Some simple economics of GM food," Munich Reprints in Economics 20396, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Neven, D. & Thisse, J-F., 1989. "On Quality And Variety Competition," CORE Discussion Papers 1989020, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Teisl, Mario F. & Roe, Brian & Hicks, Robert L., 2002. "Can Eco-Labels Tune a Market? Evidence from Dolphin-Safe Labeling," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 339-359, May.
  5. Bjorner, Thomas Bue & Hansen, L.G.Lars Garn & Russell, Clifford S., 2004. "Environmental labeling and consumers' choice--an empirical analysis of the effect of the Nordic Swan," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 411-434, May.
  6. Lusk, Jayson L. & Fox, John A., 2002. "Consumer Demand For Mandatory Labeling Of Beef From Cattle Administered Growth Hormones Or Fed Genetically Modified Corn," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 34(01), April.
  7. Klaus Conrad, 2005. "Price Competition and Product Differentiation When Consumers Care for the Environment," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 31(1), pages 1-19, 05.
  8. Fischer, Ronald & Serra, Pablo, 2000. "Standards and protection," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 377-400, December.
  9. Mads Greaker, 2006. "Eco-labels, Trade and Protectionism," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 33(1), pages 1-37, 01.
  10. Bansal, Sangeeta & Gangopadhyay, Shubhashis, 2003. "Tax/subsidy policies in the presence of environmentally aware consumers," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(2, Supple), pages 333-355, March.
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