Impact of WTO Law on European Food Regulation
European Food and Feed Law Review, Vol. 3, No. 6, pp. 361-375, 2008
15 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2012
Date Written: February 3, 2012
Food occupies a central role within the World Trade Organization (WTO), certainly where litigation is concerned. By way of illustration, a cursory read of WTO disputes initiated by Members to date reveals the existence of a veritable dispute settlement 'menu': WTO tribunals have entertained cases on beef (conventional and hormone-treated), chicken, lamb, salmon, sardines, scallops, and shrimp. Disputes of a more vegetarian-friendly nature have focused on apples, butter, bananas, coconuts, corn syrup, dairy products, GMO maize, GMO oilseed rape, GMO soybeans, GMO sugar beets, grains, laver, peaches, rice, sugar, wheat, and wheat gluten. To complete this menu, WTO tribunals have also heard disputes on alcoholic beverages and soft drinks. Food disputes that failed to reach WTO tribunal stages, because of a last minute settlements, have ranged from edible oils and coffee to macaroni. All in all, over a third of the more than 380 disputes initiated since WTO’s inception in 1955 have involved food. No product category other than 'metals' comes close.
These WTO disputes have involved a wide variety of food-related measures. In this article, we focus on the WTO disciplines relating to domestic regulation. In part II we will first explain how WTO Members like the EU try to position their food regulations so as to attract the seemingly more flexible (the ‘TBT’ as opposed to the ‘SPS’ regime). We will argue that many of these attempts may ultimately prove to be illusory. Next, we will illustrate the WTO-legal issues that can be presented by labelling regulations, which continue to be controversial but so far have largely escaped WTO litigation. In part III, we will sketch how private food interests can appeal to WTO law principles to resist unnecessary or undesirable food regulation in the EU. While denying ‘direct effect’ to WTO obligations, the European courts have found more subtle ways to give domestic law effect to WTO rules at the request of private parties.
Keywords: agriculture, food disputes in the WTO, labelling regulation, EU policies, TBT ans SPS agreements
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation