WTO and GMOs: Analyzing the European Community’s Recent Regulations Covering the Labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms

This Note explores the compatibility of the EC’s GMO regulations within the framework of the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (“SPS Agreement”), the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (“TBT Agreement”), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (“GATT 1994” or “GAT”), all integral parts of the WTO Agreement. Part II presents arguments for or against the use of GM-products. Part III explores the concept of ecolabeling by analyzing the general goals of such programs, including the economic theory behind green consumerism and the characteristics necessary for effective schemes. Part IV describes the core objectives and features of the EC regulations. To provide a framework for analyzing the EC regulations under the WTO regime, Part V sorts eco-labeling schemes into different categories. Part VI examines the legality of the EC’s regulations under the SPS Agreement, the TBT Agreement and GATT 1994. Finally, Part VII presents a proposal for a trade-sensitive regime. This Note illustrates that the EC regulations run afoul of several WTO provisions, but argues that it is possible to develop an eco-labeling program to assuage consumer concerns over GMOs without violating WTO Agreement and without the need to resort to a new watered-down treaty.