QWhich position is adopted by FAO and WTO about commercialization of GMO ?

Which position is adopted by FAO and WTO about commercialization of GMO ?

AExpert Answer

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a United Nations-based organization that has been involved in discussions on the use of biotechnology in agriculture since the technology was first utilized for agricultural applications nearly 30 years ago.


Over the years the organization and its leaders have had many different statements about various aspects of GM crops from safety to benefits to impacts on food security. The organization is comprised of 184 member countries and has generally had a balanced approach towards GM technology – recognizing the utility of the tools of biotechnology, but calling for appropriate assessment of each product developed.  Some examples of the statements made by the organization are below:


“When appropriately integrated with other technologies for the production of food, agricultural products and services, biotechnology can be of significant assistance in meeting the needs of an expanding and increasingly urbanized population.


"FAO recognizes that genetic engineering has the potential to help increase production and productivity in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. It could lead to higher yields on marginal lands in countries that today cannot grow enough food to feed their people” – FAO Statement on Biotechnology - 2000 [link]


"Biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can help to increase the supply, diversity and quality of food products and reduce costs of production and environmental degradation, as the world still grapples with the scourge of hunger and malnutrition" FAO Director General Jacques Diouf 2001 [link]


“Options such as Agro-ecology and climate-smart agriculture  should be explored, and so should biotechnology and the use of genetically modified organisms… Food production needs to grow by 60 percent by 2050 to meet the expected demand from an anticipated population of 9 billion people.  We need to explore these alternatives using an inclusive approach based on science and evidences, not on ideologies," as well as to "respect local characteristics and context” FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva 2014 [link]


Current documents on GMOs can be found on the FAO website: http://www.fao.org/biotechnology/en/.  Activities specifically related to GM food safety are outlined on this FAO webpage.


The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. 

To our knowledge, the WTO does not have a “position” on GMOs. Below is a quote from the WTO Training document related to potential for GMO-related trade issues:


“Trade problems arise when countries have different regulations regarding the testing and approval procedures necessary to place GMOs and their products on the market, or when they disagree about labeling and identification requirements.”[link]


Over the past several decades the WTO has tried to resolve several trade dispute cases involving GMOs.  The most notable of these was a case brought by Argentina, Canada and the U.S. (and several other countries) against the European Union (EU) for implementing a de facto moratorium on new import approvals on GMOs in the late 1990s - early 2000s.  The WTO Panel in this case found that the EU acted inconsistently with its obligations under the WTO; their actions and decisions were not based on risk assessments that complied with WTO provisions and “hence could be presumed to be maintained without sufficient scientific evidence.”  

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