In the debate regarding Genetically Modified Foods, ethical concerns and scientific uncertainties have played different roles in the US and the European Union. While the regulatory and rule-making system in the US is centralized, the regulatory system in the EU is decentralized. However, rule enforcement among regulatory agencies of continental European states is more centralized. The European Union’s precautionary principle when it comes to avoiding technologies used in the production of genetically modified foods, particularly when the long-term consequences culture, health and the environment are unknown, is preferable. This traditional rule helps European Unions to exercise safety until genetically modified organisms are proven to have no significant harm to humans.
This reason explains why the U.S. should not use the WTO to force-feed the world with GMO foods. The WTO should not have the mandate to determine whether the Europeans should eat GMO foods, rather the European Commission oppose aggressively this push by the U.S. and develop policies to ensure that the Europeans are protected from the unforeseen threats of GMO crops. Besides, most Europeans would continue to support perspectives that oppose U.S. positions-as a matter of principle- in a show of solidarity and loyalty to European cultures and oneness. European policy stands will continue to influence consumer choices regardless of the ruling to the current dispute.
European foods define the historical heritage of European heritage and culture. The adoption of genetically modified foods would mean an erosion to unique food traditions among European cultures in addition to the negative impact on local agricultural production. The same view is held by developing countries such as those in Africa and Asia, where food forms an essential element in preserving cultural heritage. Equally, most of these countries depend on export to the European market. If these countries support GMOs, they not only risk losing the European market but also endangering their cultural heritage and putting their lives at risk. On the contrary, the Americans value convenience and availability over food traditions and culture.
Besides, Europeans believe that the U.S. push for GMOs is motivated by economic considerations aimed at benefitting agribusiness and biotech companies. Lifting the existing restrictions would benefit these firms at the expense of cultural and health issues of the Europeans. A European health crisis such as the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is another cause of worry because Europeans do not want to be exposed to similar risks. Without concrete statistical evidence that GMOs are fit for human consumption, then the consumption of GMOs across Europe will continue to receive negative opposition. GMOs are also viewed as a strategy implemented by U.S. corporations to exploit farmers across the globe by pushing for the control of exporting and processing activities of lower-cost foods and expanded supply chains.
Plea to the WTO Dispute Panel
Until enough scientific evidence to show that GMOs are fit for human consumption is provided by third-parties, I urge the WTO Dispute Panel to uphold the ban on GMO in Europe. Europeans believe in safety and banning GMOs is a precautionary measure to unforeseen health and environmental risks. Past health risks such as the ‘mad cow’ disease is the reason the EU should stick to the precautionary principle until substantial evidence is provided in support of GMOs. Besides, GMOs do not offer substantial equivalence to traditional heritage and cultures associated with particular foods.
Food in some European cultures serves as a cultural heritage, and we do not want to lose this heritage by adopting GMOs. Suppliers and trade partners such as African countries will suffer economic consequences if they adopt GMO mechanisms because European policies will always oppose GMO policies. Economic and financial considerations for U.S. firms should never be the overriding reason the ban on GMOs in Europe should be illegal. I call upon the WTO Panel to consider the European Union’s perspective because they love their territory and want the best for their people. At the moment, GMOs do not satisfy any of the EU’s objectives.