Environmental Law Review

Life after the biotech products dispute

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Courtesy of Environmental Law Review

In May 2003, after a series of complaints about the difficulty of gaining approval to export biotechnology products to the EC, the governments of the US, Canada and Argentina requested consultations under the WTO dispute settlement process. A dispute settlement panel was established and began to hear evidence in April 2004. Under the normal dispute settlement rules, a panel is expected to take no longer than six months after its establishment to issue its final report. Where an extension is needed, this should not extend the period to more than nine months. However, because of the complexity of the issues, the Panel was unable to issue its interim report until February 2006. Interim reports are supposed to be confidential while they are being reviewed by the parties. However, interest in the Biotech Products dispute was intense and when the interim report was made public unofficially it became the subject of intense debate. The Panel issued its final report to the parties in September 2006. The unprecedented length of time that the process took, and the fierce public controversy over the interim findings, underline the range, scope and incommensurability of the issues raised in the conflict over GMOs.

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