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Global Food Governance

Implications of Food Safety and Quality Standards in International Trade Law

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Mariela Maidana-Eletti

With increasingly globalised markets, changing consumer preferences and the steady development of technologies influencing food trade flows, safety and quality concerns have triggered the development of new forms of global (food) governance. Since its creation in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has succeeded in providing a multilateral legal framework for the development of regulatory practices through its multiple agreements. Similarly, the continuing importance of regional and bilateral trade agreements, such as in the European Union and in Switzerland, has enhanced WTO’s accomplishments through a comprehensive and dynamic set of international rules and standards for trade. However, the changing trends in the production and distribution of food products have questioned the effectiveness of the regulatory status quo. This book addresses the legal aspects of the current global architecture for food governance, particularly with regard to the role of international standards. In doing so, this work attempts at mapping the implications of domestic food measures in international trade law.

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6. Food Safety Standards as Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures

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6.1 Health Protection and Food Safety The protection of human, animal and plant life and health has always been one of the main objectives of government regulation. However, due to the consolidation of the modern welfare state in developed countries, as well as the increasingly important role of the media in food scares, an increase in the adoption of health and safety regulation was identified during the first decade of the 21st century.349 Although the protection of public health, understood as a concept that develops alongside consumers’ perception of it in a given country, remains a legitimate aim to adopt regulation, these efforts often result in ‘a virtual minefield for trade policy makers’,350 where international trade rules and domestic standards collide. As such, differing food safety standards arising out of different regu- latory approaches impose important non-tariff barriers to trade. This regu- latory diversity, albeit legitimate, poses serious challenges to the free flow of trade in foodstuffs. The exploitation of these regulatory differences is legitimate enough to leverage trade-distorting behaviour, whereby regula- tion is understood as a way of allocating (market) power. Differing mini- mum food safety standards, however, constitutes one of the main hurdles in guaranteeing global market access. 349 Michael Trebilcock/Julie Soloway, ‘International Trade Policy and Domestic Food Safety Regulation: The Case for Substantial Deference by the WTO Dis- pute Settlement Body under the SPS Agreement’ in: Daniel Kennedy/James Southwick (eds), The Political Economy of International Trade Law, Essays in Honor of Robert E. Hudec,...

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