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Europe's Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology: Precaution or Trade Distortion?


  • Sheldon Ian

    (The Ohio State University)


In July 2003, the European Parliament voted on amendments to the European Unions (EU) system of regulation for agricultural biotechnology, most notably the rules for mandatory labeling of food products that contain traces of genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The expectation is that approval of these changes in EU regulations will result in the moratorium on approval of new GM crops, formalized by the Council of the European Union in 1999, being lifted. Despite the approval of these amendments, in August, the US, along with Canada and Argentina, requested the formation of a WTO dispute panel to make a ruling on the EUs failure to approve marketing of a number of GM crops.This paper addresses the issue of whether there is any legitimacy in the EUs precautionary approach to biotechnology regulation, or whether their regulatory approach is trade distorting, and, hence, likely to be found in violation of WTO agreements. First, the background to the debate in the EU and US over biotechnology is reviewed, paying particular attention to recent public discussion in the UK where the government has undertaken an extensive public consultation process over regulation of GM crops. Second, the EUs approach to biotechnology regulation is outlined and compared to that in the US, and the analytical foundations of the precautionary principle are reviewed. Third, how GM regulations fit into the rules of the WTO is outlined, along with a discussion of the nature of the USs WTO filing.

Suggested Citation

  • Sheldon Ian, 2004. "Europe's Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology: Precaution or Trade Distortion?," Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, De Gruyter, vol. 2(2), pages 1-28, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bjafio:v:2:y:2004:i:2:n:4

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    Cited by:

    1. Kontoleon Andreas & Yabe Mitsuyasu, 2006. "Market Segmentation Analysis of Preferences for GM Derived Animal Foods in the UK," Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 1-38, December.
    2. Karantininis, Kostas & Hajderllari, Eliona, 2015. "Extracting the Kyoto Rents: Nitrogen Efficient GMO Rice in China," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211831, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Rim Lassoued & Konstantinos Giannakas, 2010. "Economic Effects of the Consumer-oriented Genetically Modified Products in Markets with a Labelling Regime," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 499-526.
    4. Turvey, Calum G. & Mojduszka, Eliza M., 2005. "The Precautionary Principle and the law of unintended consequences," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 145-161, April.
    5. Nadolnyak, Denis & Miranda, Mario J. & Sheldon, Ian, 2011. "Genetically modified crops as real options: Identifying regional and country-specific differences," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 455-463, July.
    6. Zinatul Zainol & Rohaida Nordin & Frank Akpoviri, 2015. "Mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 199-216, May.

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