GMOs Across the Atlantic

  • Christina von Hobe
  • Marcel Hoß
  • Franca König
  • Nils Langensteiner
  • Yanitza Maksimova
  • Riika Mikkonen
  • Jasmine Styles
  • Joanna Switalska


GMOs Across the AtlanticSacrificing Precaution in the Name of Free Trade?Kofi Annan once said “[…] that arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity”. The world has evolved into a place of omnipresent interconnectivity where people are linked across borders by economic, political, friendly and family ties. Although risks have likewise become globalised in the process, risk management still largely constitutes a national issue. While transnational food scandals as the BSE crisis in 1997 or the horse meat scandal of 2013 have shaken consumers within and beyond the European Union (EU), Member States (MS) nonetheless continue to insist on their sovereignty to approach and handle uncertain risks by themselves. There are a variety of levels related to dealing with uncertain risks that are affected by this controversy. Amongst them are science as in risk assessment, law as in risk regulation and politics as in risk management and the overall coordinating risk governance processes. As neither science or law nor politics are able to provide fully sound and satisfying solutions for coping with uncertain risks, controversy and heated debate remains even long after a political decision has been made on a case. It is striking how all these disciplines attempt to appropriately respond to uncertainty, while they do actually add more complexity and differing opinions. There consequently is no solid ground for policy-makers to base their final decisions on and justify the particular regulation or acceptance of risks. It remains an issue how politics can effectively work in light of uncertainty. This is especially important when considering the effects of globalisation. Through international trade and the flow of goods through the world economy, products associated with uncertain risk cross national borders on a daily basis and need to be regulated. The ongoing negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America have highlighted the difficulties regarding this process. If successfully concluded, supposedly by the end of 2014, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would constitute the largest free trade zone worldwide and both the EU and the US would benefit tremendously. However, negotiations have not gone so smoothly due to prevailing disagreement over the rules that should apply for the TTIP. With regards to food safety, the EU and the US have already had difficulties in the past to agree on a common denominator. Related differences and incompatibilities become evident in the debate on food safety. Although consumer protection is a highlyranked principle for both parties, there is little agreement on what requires strict protective measures and what should be regulated only mildly. In the past and recently, problematic issues for the EU have included US exports of genetically modified crops into the EU as well as meat imports from American hormone-treated or -fed animals and chicken meat that was treated with chlorine. On the part of the US, concerns have mostly been about EU lactic-acid washed meat, raw milk cheese and dairy imports into the States. Both parties have according precautionary measures in place, but request each other to drop the various bans and ease regulatory practices and processes on other products.