Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


Amongst all the possible issues related to biotechnology, the issue concerning genetically modified food (GMF) has special importance: while the "creators" of this kind of food are starting to exploit it commercially, resistance to genetically modified food has risen under the leadership of the European countries.

This paper will be confined only to genetically modified plants (GMP) , and their impacts on both the environment and the economy. In this paper, an overview will be provided of the issues involved in the context of GMP, including aspects of consumer and environmental protection, international trade, and intellectual property. Then, and using as a reference the ongoing discussion in Brazil concerning genetically modified soy, an analysis will be made of the questions relating to labeling and moratorium in the exploitation of these products. Finally, and after analyzing the situation mentioned above, and considering some of the general principles and concepts in international environmental law (specifically: state responsibility, the duty to assess environmental impacts, the obligation not to cause environmental harm, and the precautionary principle) a conclusion may be warranted. This conclusion is that an international regulation establishing not only a moratorium in the exploitation of GMP but also some minimum standards and an international label requirement should be introduced to counterbalance the economic power of the multinational companies acting in this field over developing or the less developed countries; second, more time should be provided for detailed studies on the environmental and health impacts of this kind of harvest; third, it will be necessary to protect the consumers; and finally, it must be in accord with general concepts and principles of international environmental law.