Article: Consumer Sovereignty and the Regulatory History of the European Market for Genetically Modified Foods

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This paper examines the history of GM laws within four time bands of pre-1997, 1997, 1998–2002 and the 2003–4 reforms. Its first aim is a seemingly modest, though technically difficult one of piecing together the jigsaw that is the regulatory framework for GM food. In the second part of the paper the authors offer a summary of the law immediately
prior to the 2003 reforms with a particular emphasis on issues of tracing and labelling that are vital to our theme of consumer choice. This is followed by a third section, and a discussion of the latest round of reforms under the 2003 Regulations, comparing regulatory safeguards before and after the adoption of these regulations. In the fourth and final section of the paper, they assess the extent to which GM regulation, including the latest reforms, can be said to support consumer sovereignty. The authors conclude by questioning whether the highly complex regulatory interventions on tracing and labelling are actually necessary, or whether market incentives to boost sales by making claims about the non-GM status of food might not prove more effective in a European consumer market that is highly aware of the GM issue and prepared to buy or to boycott in accordance with GM content.

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