Moisés Burachik
Instituto de Agrobiotecnología Rosario (INDEAR), Argentina

From 1998 to 2003, the European Commission (EC) applied a de facto moratorium on the approval of new genetically engineered products. In Argentina, this situation forced regulatory changes, delaying further development and adoption of agricultural biotechnology. As this was considered a breach of international obligations, Argentina—together with Canada and the United States—engaged in a negotiation process under the Dispute Settlement Understanding mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which ended with the formation of a specific panel to rule on the case. After a complex consultation process, the panel found that the EC had acted inconsistently with its obligations under basic trade agreements, therefore ruling in favor of the complaining parties. This remarkable dispute has shown i) the increasing role of science on trade issues, ii) how the concept of precaution may lead to trade disruptions, and iii) the sound operation of the WTO dispute settlement system.

Key words: Genetic engineered crops, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, trade disputes, WTO rules.