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Editorial Committee


Notes for Contributors


WTO Law, Science, Regulation
The Biosafety Protocol
EC-Biotech Analyses
EC-Biotech Subm/Amicus Briefs
Precautionary Principle
Risk Communic, Labels
Liability and Redress
CapBldg & Fact-Finding




WTO Law and Science,

with emphasis on the case of trade regulation of GM products


See also the Codex Alimentarius section


The Biosafety Protocol has made a significant contribution to the development of Public International Law primarily because it has operationalized, more than any previous international agreement, the Precautionary Principle which at the multilateral level finds its root in Principle 15 of in the 1992 Rio Declaration. The relationship between the Protocol and the WTO, especially the SPS, the TBT and the GATT 1994 Agreements, is the core issue here and the subject of an intensive debate and scientific literature in trade law and in international environmental law. This section explores these  exceedingly complex issues in WTO law but also wider societal ramifications and debates.


The issue of GM regulation and the WTO has been at the center of a three year (2001-04) research project at the University of Geneva's Law Faculty [also available in a somewhat different French version] (Anne Petitpierre et al.). Financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation, it concludes that the narrow science-based approach essentially limited to risk assessment stipulated under WTO law is more and more difficult to maintain in view of the more comprehensive  methodologies of the Biosafety Protocol and the Codex Alimentarius which in addition to science and risk assessment also emphasize risk management, risk communication, and precautionary trade measures under certain conditions.


The relationship between the WTO and the  Biosafety Protocol is by no means determined, is is evolving constantly through the WTO's jurisprudence and other decisions, but also through continuing developments in those questions of the Protocol whose negotiations have not been concluded yet, especially labelling, liability & redress, and compliance. Furthermore, scientific expertise in the science-technology-law interface plays a crucial role in the functioning of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body in such disputes, and through it in the evolution of the relations  between the Biosafety Protocol and the WTO. Unfortunately,  this role is exercised under rules and procedures which are very opaque. The articles in this section help to shed some light on these questions.


The principles, rules, standards and procedures which determine the outcome of GM-related and other biosafety disputes represent some of the most important determinants of the dynamics of the wider trade & environment domain, in fact the biosafety issue  serves as a particularly illustrative and relevant case study of the relationship between economic globalization and threats to the global ecosystem.


See also the Codex Alimentarius page of this site for a discussion of related issues with regard to environment-related food safety and international trade. Finally, we must not forget the other side of the trade and environment equation as it relates to agrobiodiversity, namely the imposition of Intellectual Property Rights on Plants and microorganisms which is the subject of the Plant Genetic Resources page.