IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Biotechnology Regulations And The Wto

Listed author(s):
  • Sheldon, Ian M.
  • Josling, Timothy E.

This paper examines the regulation of trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Despite rapid adoption of GMOs by a few exporters, many importers have developed relatively restrictive procedures for pre-market approval of GMOs, and are introducing mandatory labeling. While exporters have yet to seek a ruling from the WTO on these regulations, a trade dispute over GMOs is likely to occur before too long. Exporting countries will likely argue that importing countries' regulations are too restrictive, given existing scientific knowledge of the safety of current GM crops, and that labeling of GM foods is unnecessary due to the fact that they are typically similar to their conventional counterparts. In response, importing countries will likely argue that existing scientific knowledge about GMOs is insufficient, and that a precautionary approach to approval is appropriate. In addition, importers will claim that labeling is necessary due to the fact that they are not equivalent to their conventional counterparts, and consumers have a right to choose whether or not consume such foods, be it for religious, ethical or other reasons. In the event a panel will have decide on whether GM and non-GM products are "like goods", whether adequate risk assessment was undertaken for any regulation introduced for health reasons, whether labels constitute the "least trade distorting" way of meeting legitimate objectives, and whether regulations imply discrimination among suppliers or in favor of domestic producers. Experience with the SPS and TBT Agreements has not been extensive enough to indicate how such a panel might rule. But one can also view the issue in broader trade policy terms, as a balance between market access obligations that need to be adjusted as domestic regulations on new technologies are developed. A possible solution is for importing countries with tough GM regulation and mandatory labeling to offer reciprocal increases in market access for non-GM foods in compensation for any losses of market access for GM foods. There is a question though of whether such "rebalancing" is actually practical, and it would certainly add to the costs of dispute settlement in the WTO, but it may be the only viable solution in the long run if the WTO is not to be dragged in to evaluating social and ethical bases for regulation of biotechnology.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium in its series Working Papers with number 14594.

in new window

Date of creation: 2002
Handle: RePEc:ags:iatrwp:14594
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2001. "Domestic Policies, National Sovereignty, and International Economic Institutions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 519-562.
  2. Robert W. Staiger & Kyle Bagwell, 1999. "An Economic Theory of GATT," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 215-248, March.
  3. Roberts, Donna, 1998. "Preliminary Assessment of the Effects of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Trade Regulations," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(3), pages 377-405, September.
  4. Kyle Bagwell & Robert W. Staiger, 2001. "The WTO as a Mechanism for Securing Market Access Property Rights: Implications for Global Labor and Environmental Issues," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 69-88, Summer.
  5. Christian Gollier, 2001. "Should we beware of the Precautionary Principle?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 301-328, October.
  6. Gollier, Christian & Jullien, Bruno & Treich, Nicolas, 2000. "Scientific progress and irreversibility: an economic interpretation of the 'Precautionary Principle'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 229-253, February.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:iatrwp:14594. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.