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Food and Agricultural Biotechnology Policy: How Much Autonomy Can Developing Countries Exercise?

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Some commentators assumed the rules of the World Trade Organization and provisions of the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol could facilitate the establishment of uniform global regulatory procedures and standards covering food and agricultural biotechnology, which could be based on scientific risk assessments. However, the science is often uncertain and equivocal, and assessments of the environmental impact of GM crops should be local rather than global. Consequently the tendency towards convergence is severely attenuated. Analysis of judgements of WTO's Dispute Panel and Appellate Body indicates that developing countries might lawfully be able to exercise considerable autonomy when setting regulatory standards if several conditions are met but, given their limited financial and human resources, they may require multilateral collaboration.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: University of Sussex

Publication date: December 1, 2003


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