‘Food safety’ and ‘biosafety’ in the era of genetic engineering: legal challenges posed by genetically modified foods under the World Trade Organization

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Genetic engineering is the process of altering the DNA in the genome of an organism. Unlike traditional cultivations, the production of Genetically Modified foods (GM foods) can be managed and improved so as to be regarded as a solution to world hunger as well as a mean to aid the realisation of the right to food and to enhance national economies. GM foods have, however, also the potential to compromise health and endanger biodiversity. The only certainty regarding the effects posed by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) to human health and the environment is the existence of scientific uncertainties. Accordingly, it is still debated if genetic engineering produces sustainable foods or if GMOs jeopardise food safety. Nonetheless, because of their benefits, there is a flourishing international trade of GMOs that magnifies geographically, at the same time, the spread of risks posed by these organisms to human health and the environment. The decision-makers under the World Trade Organization (WTO) find themselves in the middle of this polarised debate in which open-trade needs to be balanced with food safety and biosafety.

Against this background, this presentation discusses whether WTO law and jurisprudence contribute to enhance food safety and to ensure biosafety. In approaching this task, it explores crucial legal challenges posed by trading GMOs. The final picture drawn from this discussion will show how a more constructive dialogue between legal and scientific thinkers along with the adoption of precautionary measures might ensure food safety and biosafety in trading GMOs.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jul 2019
EventFood Governance Conference 2019 - Sydney Law School, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 03 Jul 201905 Jul 2019


ConferenceFood Governance Conference 2019
Internet address


  • food safety
  • precautionary principle
  • World Trade Organization


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