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IPC Position Paper No. 7

Plant Biotechnology and Global Food Production: Trade Implications

An Overview

Plants produced using modern biotechnology are creating controversy in many places due to consumer concerns about food safety and environmental impact. These concerns often translate into policies that risk disrupting international trade flows. At the same time, biotechnology is generating optimism about the world’s capacity to feed future populations. The present position paper by the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council (IPC) explains the nature of these concerns and the importance of biotechnology, and makes policy recommendations outlining the safeguards and trade rules required to protect consumers and the environment and to allow international commerce to proceed uninhibited.

To dramatically increase the world’s food output in coming decades without causing significant environmental hazards will require finding ways to improve plant characteristics to lower production costs and increase yields on existing farmland. Plant biotechnology offers promise to face such challenges, making it a significant development in the field of plant science.

Policy responses to these products today are continuing to evolve. An international consensus on regulatory review processes has emerged, however differences among national regulatory regimes, particularly between the US and Europe need to be bridged to prevent trade conflicts from erupting.

The paper suggests reliance on science-based assessment procedures to determine the safety of plant products produced using biotechnology. The use of mutual recognition agreements among governments should help smooth trade relations between countries employing different regulatory regimes and where MRAs are not possible national approval processes should be made more transparent. When international agreement that such products are substantially equivalent to their traditional counterparts is lacking, improved labeling procedures can help. In these ways, the IPC argues regulatory authorities worldwide can adequately address public concerns about biotechnology while facilitating international trade in agriculture and food products.

FULL TEXT (.pdf format)

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