International Biotechnology Law and Policy: Year in Review (2009)
YEARBOOK OF INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW, Vol. 20, O. K. Fauchald, D. Hunter, W. Xi, eds., Oxford University Press, 2010
8 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2010
Date Written: February 1, 2010
Yearly review of highlights of international biotechnology law and policy developments, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), biosafety, and GM foods and WTO trade regulation. Year in review: 2009.
The worldwide proliferation of genetically modified (GM) crops and other applications of modern agricultural biotechnology continues to expand at an impressive pace. In the first twelve years since the market introduction of the first transgenic maize in 1996, the global hectarage of GM crops has expanded by double digits growth rates each year, slowed only to slightly below 10% growth by the global economic recession crisis during 2008 and 2009. The new-record high global uptake of agricultural biotechnology products of 134 million hectares in 2009 entails a dazzling near 80-fold increase of the 1996 starting position of 1.7 million hectares; accounting for an accumulated hectarage of nearly 1 billion ha. The principal GM crops continue to be soybean (77% of worldwide production is now transgenic), cotton (49% worldwide), maize (26%), and canola (21%). In terms of the major producing countries, the US continues to lead the way (with 64 million ha), and Brazil (21.4 million ha) replacing for the first time as runner-up Argentina (21.3 million ha), followed at some distance by India (8.4 million ha) and Canada (8.2 million ha). By stark contrast, the total 2009 hectarage of all EU Member States was 0.094 million ha (of which 80% was produced in Spain), whereas for example Japan currently has no GM crop cultivation at all [all data from the 2009 Report on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)]. These contrasting figures highlight the longstanding impasse in the legal and policy responses to this burgeoning agricultural technology. The deep and persisting differences in perspectives between trade blocks and nation states on the safety and risks of biotechnology and genetic modification continue to delay or even block most substantive progress in the various international cooperative regulatory fora in this policy field. Widely differing national and regional approaches have emerged over the past two decades, creating high-level political and economic tensions between major trade blocs and partners. Unfortunately, both the nature of this Yearbook as well as space limitations prevent a comprehensive overview of all the regional and national developments across the globe in this policy field. Instead, this report will highlight the most crucial developments in the international realm of ‘green’ biotechnology law.
The year 2009 was a relatively uneventful period for the global law and politics of agricultural biotechnology and biosafety; essentially a transitional year with preparatory meetings intended to lay the groundwork for final negotiations on difficult dossiers in the coming year(s). Some useful progress appears to have been made towards important compromises, particularly as regards the issues of liability and redress under the CBD’s Cartagena Biosafety Protocol. Also, some formal resolutions were reached in the aftermath of the ‘trade war’ involving the US, Canada, and Argentina versus the European Union (EU) and its Member States.
Keywords: biotechnology, GMO, GM food, trade, WTO, SPS, Codex Alimentarius, Aarhus Convention, Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, risk regulation, liability and redress, labelling, case law, GM trees, climate change, Kyoto, Precautionary principle, EU law, environmental law
JEL Classification: K32, K33, K39, K23, K10, K13, K19, K00, O13, Q17, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation