Genetically Modified Organisms and Justice: The International Environmental Justice Implications of Biotechnology

53 Pages Posted: 18 May 2007 Last revised: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Carmen G. Gonzalez

Carmen G. Gonzalez

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: August 24, 2011


La versión en español de este artículo se puede encontrar en

In September 2006, a WTO dispute settlement panel issued its long-awaited decision in favor of the United States in the dispute between the U.S. and the European Union over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The ruling was based on narrow procedural grounds, and did not resolve the controversy over the safety of GMOs, over the right of countries to regulate GMOs more stringently than conventional products, or over the consistency of the EU's GMO regulatory regime with WTO requirements. The debate over GMOs continues unabated. Unfortunately, the high profile dispute between the U.S. and the EU has eclipsed the important debate in the developing world over the socioeconomic implications of this technology. While scientific uncertainty continues to impede efforts to reach consensus on the human health and environmental impacts of GMOs, the socioeconomic perils of biotechnology in developing countries are becoming increasingly evident. Regrettably, the trade and environmental agreements governing the transboundary movement of GMOs privilege science as the arbiter of trade disputes to the exclusion of other forms of normative discourse. With limited exceptions, socioeconomic considerations may not be used to justify GMO trade restrictions. Using environmental justice as an analytical framework, this article examines the unique risks and benefits of biotechnology for developing countries, and places the debate over biotechnology in the context of the historic and ongoing controversy between developed and developing countries over the rules governing trade in conventional agricultural products. It concludes by proposing alternative regulatory strategies designed to ensure that international trade law promotes rather than frustrates environmental protection, the human right to food, and the promotion of sustainable economic development.

Keywords: WTO, environmental justice, trade policy, international law, trade law, environmental law, development law, food security, genetically modified organisms, agricultural law, human rights law, SPS Agreement, biosafety

JEL Classification: F13, F18, F54, Q17, Q56, N50, O24, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Gonzalez, Carmen G., Genetically Modified Organisms and Justice: The International Environmental Justice Implications of Biotechnology (August 24, 2011). Georgetown International Environmental Law Review (GIELR), Vol. 19, p. 583, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Carmen G. Gonzalez (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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