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Date:

March 21, 2001

Subject:

Trade, Science and Genetically Modified Foods

 


Trade, Science and Genetically Modified Foods:
A Council on Foreign Relations Study Group

by C. Ford Runge (University of Minnesota) and David Victor
(Council on Foreign Relations)

http://www.cfr.org/public/pubs/Victor_ModFood_Paper.html
Council on Foreign Relations, New York, New York, January 29, 2001

1. Purpose

The scientific breakthrough of genetically modified (GM) food has
generated enormous political controversy while delivering few benefits to
consumers to date. The next generation of GM foods could offer much larger
benefits, but todayís debate has deterred investment and led to policies
unguided by a long-term vision. Our purpose is to help create a more
strategic policy on GM foods in the U.S. Its main product will be a major
article that (a) articulates why the next generation of GM foods is a
vitally important innovation, and (b) details policies for managing the
environmental, health, trade, research and investment issues that arise in
the GM food debate. Through a series of meetings in the U.S., along with
efforts to catalyze a similar set of meetings in Europe, we will focus on
the need for the specifics of a sensible long-term strategy.

We will focus on three main issues. First, how do the "first generation"
and "second generation" of GM foods differ, and what do these differences
portend? The first generation of products such as corn, soybeans, and
cotton are mainly based on modifications of single genes that allow
farmers to reduce the cost of pesticides, herbicides and other "inputs" to
farming. Farmers have embraced this first generation of GM crops
enthusiastically in the hope of lowering costs, lifting yields and
boosting profits. With few exceptions (e.g., cotton), however, profits
have not soared, and little of the surplus has been passed to consumers
via lower prices or improved quality. Consumers, already wary of unsafe
food, have been understandably reluctant to embrace products that may
cause potential harm and provide no apparent benefits. In Europe, the
reaction has been especially hostile, but opposition is spreading in the
U.S. as well.

Our concern is that the controversy over the "first generation" of
products is clouding the future for the "second generation," such as
fruits and vegetables that deliver vaccines and commodity crops that allow
farmers to boost yields significantly. Many of these second generation
products are already in the research pipeline and, if marketed, could
offer enormous benefits to consumers and farmers. Proper regulatory and
incentive systems are needed to ensure that the innovation and application
of this new generation properly account for the risks and values that will
determine whether this new technology is successful. Hostility in some
quarters (though not by farmers) to the first generation is creating a
regulatory environment that may slow GM innovations and has already made
investors wary. The same hostility and uncertainty also partially explain
why investment in applying modern biotechnology to crops that are
especially importing in the developing world remains extremely modest
public research institutions have been wary of adopting GM techniques, and
private innovators have not had strong incentives to develop crops for
developing country markets. Yet the benefits of genetic modification
techniques may be especially large in the developing world by raising
yields and improving nutrition, genetically modified foods can play a role
in alleviating poverty. Several observers have already articulated the
long-term potential of this technology, but no comprehensive vision exists
for realizing this potential. Such a vision must contain clear and
practical solutions, especially for U.S. policy.

The second issue concerns regulation. Opponents maintain that laboratory
development and trial testing of GM foods poses risks because experiments
can go awry. Novel strains could escape from the laboratory or field
trials; new organisms can cause unanticipated consequences. Other risks
arise during commercial sale and marketing. Large-scale planting of novel
organisms can aid the development of resistant pests or cause other
environmental harms; and novel foods could pose risks to consumers (e.g.,
allergenicity).

In each of these areas, there are worrying gaps and inconsistencies in
regulatory systems. Although review and approval of experiments as well as
codes of practice for laboratories and field trials in developed countries
are well-developed extensions of systems initially put in place during the
1970s debate over recombinant DNA, the biotech industry is now rapidly
spreading to the developing world where regulatory oversight may be much
less effective. Inadequate oversight in the developing world is a
potential problem for all nations since improper genetic releases in one
country could affect the global ecosystem. A growing number of developing
countries notably, Brazil, China and India are promoting indigenous
biotechnology industries, and making greater use of biotechnology methods
in public and private research institutes. They are anxious to gain the
advantages of genetic modification, not only to enhance food production
but also to foster indigenous pharmaceutical and biotech industries. While
most developing countries now have rules to regulate risks from developing
and testing GM products, the record on implementation generally has been
poor. The technology, it appears, is spreading much more rapidly than
these countriesí capacity to regulate. We will explore what can be done to
improve regulatory capacity while retaining the benefits of GM
technologies in the developing world.

Problems in the regulatory system are quite different for final products
such as processed foods. A key issue lies in the large differences between
U.S. and European regulatory approaches, which have caused trade frictions
and raised questions over which regulatory approach is more effective. The
European Union has adopted comprehensive new regulatory approval systems
especially designed for GM foods; yet for several years the EU has not
approved any new GM foods and several EU member states are refusing to
accept them even if Brussels eventually gives regulatory approval. The
U.S., by contrast, regulates GM foods through relatively minor
modifications to its existing food and pesticide regulatory systems. The
result has been approval of many new products but also growing concern
that the US regulatory system will soon find itself in gridlock. As GM
food products and risks become more complex, with novelties beyond simple
insertion of single genes, it may be impossible to evaluate safety within
a system designed for regulation of traditional agricultural products.
Furthermore, on both sides of the Atlantic there are growing concerns that
inadequate attention is paid to monitoring and regulating environmental
risks caused by releasing transgenic crops and animals into the
environment. We will explore why the U.S. and Europe have taken different
regulatory paths, the consequences of these differences, and the prospects
for resolving them.

The third issue concerns trade. Differences in planting of GM crops and
regulatory systems are already causing trade frictions. At this writing,
the first formal trade dispute over regulation of GM foods between Egypt
and Thailand is in consultations at the World Trade Organization. A
dispute between the US and EU is looming. In principle, the WTOís
agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary regulations (the "SPS Agreement")
will govern these disputes. In practice, however, the WTO system is poorly
equipped to settle these problems because it requires passing judgment on
the legitimacy of a nationís food safety laws. The WTO also affects this
issue through its treatment of intellectual property. WTOís agreement on
Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) requires countries to
adopt greater protection of intellectual property, including protection of
private property rights in agriculture. This will affect diffusion of GM
technologies since most of the key innovations are privately owned. During
the "green revolution" in agriculture beginning in the 1950s, key
innovations were publicly owned and advanced by public- and
foundation-funded agricultural research programs. If a GM foods revolution
is to occur, explicit accommodation of public and private interests will
be essential. We will explore how these issues intrusion into national
food safety laws as well as sharing of privately owned intellectual
property can be accommodated by the WTO.

Policy strategy development in this area will be exceptionally
challenging. The polarized debate over the first generation of GM foods
casts a long shadow over any effort. Moreover, these policies will be
technically and politically complicated. For example, policies to regulate
risks in the laboratory and during field-testing must be applied at the
level of individual laboratories and firms, which is hard for the
international community to achieve when countries are wary of
international law and institutions that could reach inside their borders.
Added to this problem is the fact that there is already an international
treaty on this regulatory problem the "Biosafety Protocol" which many
experts feel is largely symbolic and unlikely to be effective. A major
challenge is how to accelerate the development of GM products relevant to
developing country conditions. Meeting this challenge requires attention
to the funding patterns and research agendas at the main public
agricultural international research institutions. These institutions are
facing reduced support from some large donor countries (notably in Europe)
opposed to public investments in biotechnology. A final challenge is that
private firms own many intellectual property rights on key innovations;
how and whether they can be induced to share this information, especially
with needy developing countries, is an open question.

2. Context: How did the Promise of GM Foods Come Undone?

The basic science underpinning biotechnology has existed since the early
1970s, but only in the middle 1990s did commercially viable GM foods
appear on store shelves in significant quantities. The new foods quickly
became embroiled in controversy. The European public, already sensitive to
food dangers from the "mad cow" debacle, denounced these products as
unsafe. Regulatory approval for new field trials of GM crops in Europe was
halted nearly two years ago; angry activists have uprooted trial plots
already in the ground; at this writing, lawsuits are being filed against
growers of GM crops in Europe for polluting the worldís genetic commons
with products that God had neither created nor intended. Similar, though
less anger-filled, events have unfolded in Japan today, the Japanese
government and consumers demand segregation and labeling of GM crops. In
the United States, public discussion took a different direction. The new
crops were hailed as allowing farmers to protect yields while using fewer
harmful pesticides benefiting the environment, field workers and farmers.
Within five years, from the middle 1990s to today, U.S. farmers went from
essentially zero GM planting to sowing the majority of the soybean crop
and nearly half of the corn and cotton crop with GM seeds. Consumers,
meanwhile, were largely quiet with the exception of activist groups such
as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

Economics, as well as different perceptions of risks, explain some of the
gulf between activist GM opponents and farmers. The first generation of GM
foods notably, soybeans, corn, and cotton have delivered benefits mainly
to innovators and producers. For example, Monsanto created "Roundup Ready"
soybeans that can withstand application of the powerful herbicide
glyphosphate (trade name: Roundup). The herbicide helps the soybeans
flourish by keeping down weeds, and reduces the costs of spraying of less
effective herbicides. Economic studies show that about half of the surplus
gained from this innovation flows back to Monsanto, which sells both the
seeds and the Roundup. One quarter goes to farmers, and the remainder to
consumers. It is hardly surprising that Monsanto and farmers have embraced
the technology while consumers who have seen fewer benefits remain
indifferent or skeptical. Why take the risk with no apparent benefit?

The next generations of products are likely to be different. Development
of GM foods that contain vital vaccines and nutrients is already far
advanced. An example is "golden rice" a strain of genetically modified
rice enriched through biotechnology with beta-carotene containing vitamin
A. Perhaps one billion people consume insufficient amounts of the A
vitamins, especially those who survive on rice-dominant diets. The novel
orange-tinged rice could help solve the problem of Vitamin-A deficiency,
and the associated problems of childhood disease and blindness, if it
could be widely adopted by poor families. Many other products are in the
development pipeline. Sweet potatoes are a staple in East African diets
because they store easily and can provide food security in times of
drought. Field trials are beginning in Kenya for a GM variety that resists
the sweet potato virus, which kills up to 80% of the crop and partially
explains why Kenyan sweet potato yields are half the world average. The
potential for other innovations is immense and the timing fortuitous. Just
when experts have been fretting that the "green revolution" research and
diffusion programs that have lifted crop yields worldwide since the 1950s
are running out of steam, genetic engineering potentially opens a new
frontier.

How can societies achieve the promise of genetic engineering of foods
while managing any risks? Several attributes of GM technologies make this
important question especially difficult to answer. First, delivering GM
technologies to market has required extremely costly investments.
Hostility to the first generation of GM foods has made the leading firms
skittish about pumping even greater resources into subsequent generations
where the greater potential benefits to society are matched by larger
commercial risks.

Second, firms in a handful of advanced industrialized countries account,
so far, for nearly all innovation of GM foods. Those countries have long
had regulations in place relating to potential hazards during the
development and testing of new products. (Those regulations date to the
acrimonious debate in the 1970s over recombinant DNA. Fundamentally the
same technologies, with many of the same risks, are involved in
development and testing of GM foods.) Although critics maintain that even
these regulatory regimes are inadequate, corresponding oversight in many
developing countries is totally absent. As the biotech industry spreads
worldwide, the stark differences in regulatory approach will become
increasingly troublesome. Brazil, China, and India, for example, all have
public and private efforts underway to promote world-class biotechnology
industries. But these new entrants do not face the same regulatory
constraints, making the risks to them and the world potentially larger. A
recent example concerns a new virus bioengineered in an Australian lab
devoted to infertility research in mice, which destroys immune response in
the same mice. The virus, produced by accident, could portend similar
viruses with impacts on human immune response.

Many also feel that ill-designed and poorly contained GM crops could
escape from field trials, breeding with nearby wild relatives to create
"super weeds." Yet the international community has little leverage over
how countries regulate the pre-market development of these products. So
far, nearly all international discussions of the risks of genetic
engineering has focused on ways to restrict trade in GM foods, but trade
restrictions have little direct leverage on the methods by which GM foods
are developed. More intrusive international legal rules could ensure that
all countries implement similarly strict controls on product development,
but evidence from other areas of international law suggests that such
regimes work poorly if at all, not unlike analogous arms control regimes
(we will invite experts on these regimes to participate). The
international community has yet to confront the problem of widely variable
R&D practices because the norms of the advanced industrialized nations
have prevailed. In those few cases where R&D has been conducted outside
the advanced research regimes it has been managed mainly by multinational
firms and institutions that conform to the same norms.

Third, most investment has focused on products for the advanced
industrialized countries where the markets are most promising. Yet the
reason most often brandished for why GM food technologies must be advanced
is the potential for "feeding the world." Some have charged that this is
merely cynical posturing but the potential benefits are real. There are
many possible spillovers from the products generated for markets in
advanced industrialized countries both "golden rice" and the Kenyan sweet
potatoes, for example, are partially built on genes developed and owned by
industrial firms. The reality, however, is that funding of public research
institutes for improving staple crops in the developing world is nearly
stagnant, and only a small fraction of the public resources are being
devoted to seizing the benefits of genetic engineering. Moreover, the
controversy over GM foods in advanced industrialized nations has led some
donor countries to threaten cutbacks if the institutes that they fund
promote genetic engineering. Even if there were effective investment
plans, novel GM foods typically rely, in part, on proprietary techniques
and genes that could be too costly to license for the poorest
beneficiaries. And public research institutes increasingly rely on
partnerships with private firms, which bring badly needed resources but
raise questions about how the benefits of research may be shared. So far,
particular GM foods have advanced only through a patchwork of uneasy fixes
donations of technology (e.g., the Kenyan sweet potato), private special
funding (e.g., Rockefeller Foundationís support of technology similar to
"golden rice"), and the like. But is this ad hoc approach sustainable and
effective?

Fourth, regulation and development of this new technology are complicated
by the rules of the World Trade Organization. European governments defend
their restrictions on testing and imports of GM foods by pointing to
potential risks of these products the "precautionary principle." But the
WTO is still largely silent on how vigorously its members can defend trade
restrictions using this principle, and legal scholars have warned that the
principle is so elastic that it can easily be abused as a cover for simple
protectionism. The WTO is also important because it imposes discipline on
how countries protect intellectual property. Some observers have argued
that multinational corporations that have invented (or purchased) the
techniques of genetic engineering should be forced to transfer the ideas
and methods to developing countries most in need. Yet the WTOís agreement
on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) requires the
opposite it obliges every member of the WTO, including developing
countries, to implement patent, copyright and other intellectual property
laws that could make it harder to diffuse new technologies for public
purposes. Even boosters of GM food technology now publicly worry that
intellectual property protections in the US and other advanced
industrialized countries have gone so far that they impede the free
sharing of novel ideas, which has been a mainstay of effective scientific
research.

Fifth, the political forces that will affect the future of this technology
are truly global, making it hard for any single nation, even the U.S., to
control the policy levers. The concentration of biotech talent and a
favorable regulatory environment explain why a substantial share of the
research, so far, has taken place in the U.S. But the potential markets
for GM foods are global, and U.S. firms are vulnerable to regulatory
decisions made in many other capitals and markets. Moreover, the foes of
this technology are also organized globally. Essentially all the major
European and American consumer organizations participate in interlocking
alliances that share information and strategies. Many of the leading
environmental groups that have been active on this issue such as
Greenpeace are multinational operations that guide their local affiliates
with a central strategy and act with a global purpose. Whereas in the
early 1980s the consumer movement against beef hormones took more than a
decade to spread across Europe and never really took hold in the United
States only a few short years were needed for the foes of GM foods to
rally mass public support in Europe and to spread their message to nearly
all other industrialized nations as well as the major countries of the
developing world. Perhaps the Internet, more active media, and generally
greater awareness of food safety (fanned, notably, by the "mad cow"
scares) are increasing the public appetite for information about food
quality and safety.

Thus the technology of GM foods has arrived at an important crossroads. It
holds huge potential for consumers and producers; but the enormous
controversy over the first generation of GM products has called into
question whether the full potential for the second-generation GM products
will ever be realized. The technologies of genetic modification may create
risks, but the means of managing these risks to date such as trade
restrictions exert little leverage. There is a truly significant potential
to use this technology for public good to better nourish the growing world
population to shrink the area of land needed for food production and to
reduce the use of harmful pesticides. Yet, consumer acceptance, regulation
of risks, public investment, consistency with international trade rules,
and ownership of intellectual property all pose major hurdles to the
realization of these gains.

These are important issues for US foreign policy. US firms are the leading
innovators of the technology. US consumers stand to benefit from safer and
cheaper products (and to be harmed by any risks). The quality of the
environment in the US where GM crops are already grown stands to gain or
lose depending how the technology unfolds. And the quality of the worldís
environment and biodiversity which have long also been concerns of US
foreign policy stand to be affected as well. The handling of GM food
issues will also affect the integrity and conduct of the world trading
system in particular, the WTOís rules on intellectual property and on food
safety, which were designed in considerable part by US negotiators and
fashioned mainly to reflect the policy preferences of the United States.

3. Literature in the Field

There are many books and articles that touch on aspects of these
challenges, although none seeks to reframe the debate along the lines that
we suggest. Some argue that the debate should be framed in terms of the
potential to feed the world, but that has given short shrift to the
commercial realities that drive product development and to potential risks
that must be addressed. Other studies suggest that this is a
straightforward matter of science and that opponents of GM foods are
simply wrong. But that literature does not address the political task of
moving beyond the stalemate that has resulted as different political
systems have interpreted the same science in different ways. And many
studies have focused on a particular technical issue such as the WTOís SPS
Agreement and explored the implications for GM foods. But those studies
miss the important issues that lie outside their domain.

Below, we outline five broad types of studies that are relevant for our
project. We are mindful that our goal a coherent vision and articulation
of policy is ambitious, but it is made much easier by the availability of
an extensive literature on parts of the problem.

First, there are many studies on the risks of GM foods such as risks to
the environment, consumers, and the like. Among these is a recent report
by the National Academy of Sciences, as well as extensive commentary in
Nature, Science and other sources on risks. These studies have focused
mainly on national regulation and, to a much lesser degree, on
international regulation and trade issues. They have generally identified
risks, outlined management strategies, and proposed policy options. They
have been much less effective in exploring why different societies
regulate risks differently. One of us (Victor) was centrally involved in
one of these studies, learning first hand that the theories for addressing
problems where risk assessments and management techniques vary
internationally and are extremely poor.

Second, there is a growing literature (and policy activity) on the
potential for using biotechnology to "feed the world." These studies have
identified enormous potentials and highlighted the many injustices in a
world economic system that focuses R&D on products for advanced
industrialized countries while giving little attention to the poor. They
have also highlighted issues such as ownership of intellectual property
(e.g., genes, biotechnology techniques) that may impede diffusion of the
new technology to the poorest communities. But these studies offer little
by way of a plan for fixing the situation, except marginal changes such as
enhanced funding of the public international "Consultative Group" network
of agricultural research. These are important issues, but solutions must
be put in the context of the ongoing trade disputes over GM foods. For
example, in the last month Thailand has launched a formal dispute in the
WTO against Egypt for the latterís ban on some imported Thai products the
ban is based on the fear that some of the Thai product may be tainted by
genetically modified crops. Such conflicts of which this is just one
appear likely to overshadow the impact of public research on biotechnology
in affecting which crops poor farmers grow and the markets in which they
can sell them.

Third, there is a growing literature on the legal dimensions of these
issues. Some focuses on the liability implications of growing GM crops,
which is an issue of increasing importance as suits are prepared in Europe
against field trials that may "pollute the genetic commons." But this
literature largely concentrates on national and EU liability rules; at the
international level, liability over "genetic pollution" has been deferred.
More importantly, there is a well-developed body of international trade
law on food safety regulation. The WTO imposes discipline on the types of
food safety regulations that countries can impose, and some case law has
emerged as disputes have worked through the WTO system (e.g., on meat
hormones).

But the legal literature fails to offer much insight into the politics of
these issues, which dominate. For international trade lawyers, "science"
is the arbiter of whether national food safety regulations are permissible
if a national measure is based on scientific risk assessment then it
passes the WTO test. But "science" is not the issue in the political
controversies. Moreover, the legal literature so far offers little insight
into the permissibility of various remedies for trade conflicts over GM
foods, such as mandatory labeling requirements. Another major gap in the
legal literature is that almost all international trade law is focused on
products; it provides for regulation if the product itself causes harm and
has generally not allowed regulation of the process by which the product
is created. Many of the risks for GM foods come from the process by which
they are grown. Moreover, if our argument is right, the greatest risks may
come in the process of research and development. Efforts to control the
final product after the R&D phase is over will have no effect on such
upstream risks.

Fourth, there is a well-developed field of research on the economics of
innovation and diffusion of agriculture technologies. GM foods are the
latest in a long line of important agricultural innovations, each with its
own technical, regulatory and market barriers and opportunities. Economic
analysis of new technologies includes attention to how consumers gain
information about and differentiate between products; many, including one
of us (Runge), have advocated the use of labeling to allow consumers to
choose between GM and non-GM crops. Yet many practical problems arise with
labeling, including the possibility that labels will not be informative to
consumers and some label designs could introduce bias against GM
technologies. Because labeling programs can be costly to monitor and
implement, much attention in industry has focused on whether labels should
be positive (i.e., "contains GM products) or negative (i.e., "does not
contain GM products"). Because contamination is a constant feature of the
food system, special attention has focused on the threshold that
determines "GM free;" very sensitive monitoring techniques make it
possible to spot virtually any level of contamination, which suggests that
a zero threshold would be impossible to enforce. Nearly all food will have
some traces of genetic modification.

Fifth, there is essentially no literature that explores the effect of an
expanding biotech industry on regulation of GM techniques. Extensive
information is available on the rules that countries impose on biotech
R&D, but information about actual implementation (i.e., application,
monitoring and enforcement) of those rules is unreliable. No studies, of
which we are aware, have even explored possible scenarios for the
development of biotech industries in developing countries and whether that
development will occur with a parallel set of appropriate regulations.

Also notably absent from the literature is an assessment of how countries
manage the techniques of genetic modification. The literature on GM
regulation in the advanced industrialized countries is extensive, and
there are some inventories of adopted rules that govern the techniques in
public and private research institutions in developing countries, but no
studies have examined implementation. A systematic examination of that
issue is beyond the scope of this study, but a comparison between the rule
systems in these countries and the spread of investment in GM technologies
is feasible and will form part of our research.

4. Adding Value

We will add value to this debate in three ways. First, we will articulate
a vision for what is really at stake with GM foods the development of a
"second generation" of products and the risks associated with diffusion of
the global biotech industry. Second, we will offer specific advice on how
to achieve the vision, which will include topics such as:

* How governments should handle disputes under the WTOís SPS Agreement
that involve highly uncertain and distant risks. At present, there is no
guidance on that matter; rather, the debate is stuck on whether and how to
adopt an expanded version of the "precautionary principle."

* How systems for labeling GM products can be made compatible with the
WTOís agreement on technical barriers to trade.

* How to promote development of the next generations of GM products in
public research institutions (including those of the international CG
system) with private sector collaboration.

* How to manage the risks from laboratory and field trial research in the
growing number of countries with biotech industries. (Answers to this
question may benefit from looking closely at efforts, successful and not,
to manage development of biological and chemical weapons.)

In developing these policy proposals we will focus on the U.S. However, a
successful US policy requires engagement with many NGOs, other countries,
and international institutions. Thus our vision must be one that is
attractive and plausible for the world.

Third, and most importantly, we aim for a broad policy statement. The
current debate has raised many issues health and environmental safety
regulations, possible WTO disputes, intellectual property rules, and
funding of international agricultural research but the links across them
are not considered. The current policy is reactive government works one
issue, often in response to a crisis in part because the stakes in GM
foods have not been made sufficiently clear so that the highest levels of
government have demanded a coherent policy strategy.

5. Products

Through approximately three study group meetings (see below) we will
develop a major article that outlines this vision. Writing that article
may require one or more technical background studies, such as on risks of
GM foods, the handling of similar health and environmental safety disputes
in the WTO, and the methods used in different countries to regulate the
possible risks of genetic modification. Drs. Runge and Victor already have
some of those studies under way; where appropriate, they will be published
separately. Our main focus is the final article, which will be written to
be accessible to a non-technical audience.

Our study group plan also envisions commissioning outside papers on
specific topics that are not the expertise of Drs. Victor and Runge. We
would urge the authors of those papers to publish their work in
appropriate journals, although our purpose is not to generate a specific
publication from those background papers nor does CFR have a paper series
that would be an appropriate venue for those works.

6. Study Group Details

We envision holding three meetings of the study group the first in late
March, the second about 8 weeks later, and the final meeting in
mid-summer. Each meeting will have a theme and at least one background
paper circulated in advance:


Meeting 1 (late March)

* Purpose: what are the facts on the ground, and is our conception of this
study group correct?
* Key questions:
* What are the key scientific methods and issues?
* How did the US and EU arrive at such different regulatory approaches to
GM products?
* Are we correct that the debate is on the wrong track?
* What is the impact of this wrong track on innovation of the next
generation of products:
* Private sector: impact on how firms view the potential for the next
generation of products?
* Public sector: impact on level and type of investment in new GM
techniques in public research institutions?
* Background presentation:
* Key scientific issues, methods, and risks in the development and
commercial production of GM foods.
* Background papers:
* Paper on the origins of the current dispute: how did different
countries, using essentially the same scientific information, arrive at
such different regulatory decisions about GM foods? (Author: David Vogel,
INSEAD and Univ. of California, Berkeley)
* Concept paper (this document)

Meeting 2 (April/May)

* Purpose: facts on the ground in developing countries and the development
of GM food products for the developing world (possible location:
Washington DC)
* Key questions:
* What are the trends in investment in agriculture for public benefit in
developing countries?
* Is the level of investment in GM techniques for this market adequate?
Are methods for sharing intellectual property and for joint public-private
investment adequate?
* Is there a growing and systematic problem with regulation of GM
techniques ("biosafety") in the US, other OECD countries, and overseas?
* Background papers
* Investment in GM techniques for the developing world level of
investment; balance between traditional agricultural research and biotech;
role of public-private partnerships in development of GM foods for
developing countries; key policy issues (e.g., IPR sharing and granting).
(Author: TBD)
* Paper on regulation of GM techniques in the US, Europe and key
developing countries (authors: Karplus and Victor)

Meeting 3 (late June)

* Purpose: recap and synthesize the debate; focus on real policy options
for the US.
* Key questions:
* Are we facing a crisis for the development of GM foods (i.e., a large
gap between the trajectory of product development and the realistic
potential trajectory)?
* What are the real policy options for the U.S. government, firms, NGOs?
* Background papers
* Draft of major policy paper on "Trade, Science and Genetically Modified
Foods" (authors: Runge and Victor).

-
Copyright 2001 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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