The composition of the agricultural industry has changed over time, which has affected the food industry. Genetically modified foods have been a major topic of discussion in the world. Since the long-term effects of GMOs on human’s health and the environment are not yet defined, the European Union has decided to place very strict regulations on GM food, while the United States is more lenient. The consumers in each country have affected the severity of the regulations. The EU has adopted strict regulations since the consumers do not trust their regulatory agencies as much, due to their history of health outbreaks such as mad-cow disease. The EU is following a precautionary principle and the US is following a postcautionary principle.
Labeling GM food is another controversial topic. If the European Union approves a GM product for commercialization, they require labels on the products. On the other hand, the FDA in the US does not require labeling. “GM foods are subject to the same labeling requirements that are applied by the FDA to all foods on the US market. Labeling of GM foods is only mandatory if a particular GM good is no longer substantially equivalent to the corresponding conventional food in terms of composition, nutrition, or safety” (“Agricultural Biotechnology: Why do Regulations…” 23). Today, GM foods have been extensively integrated into American’s food supply. However since there is no legal requirement to label these foods, many Americans are not consciously aware of the presence of GM foods in their diets (Jonietz & Michaels).
Different regulations in different countries affect international trade and hinder economic potential. The EU limits the imports of genetically modified food, which decreases the number of American agricultural exports. Also regulations serve as “non-tariff barriers” between the countries since regulations cause higher costs for firms and restricted access to the market (Francois 7).
The EU and US could both benefit if they followed more comparable regulations. My recommendation is to gain some partial regulatory convergence and cross-recognition of standards between the EU and the US. Currently there is a trade negotiation, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), occurring between the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) and the EU Trade Commissioner. I suggest the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office continue to negotiate with the EU and find some common ground.
Increased cooperation and discussions will allow the offices to learn from one another and perhaps improve their coordination. I especially believe the US needs to learn from the EU’s law to label GM food. “The overwhelming public support for the labeling of foods which have been genetically modified – which has emerged as an important source of trade conflict with the United States – reflects the view of many European consumers that they have a right to know how the foods they are eating were produced – so that they, and not some government agency or business firm – can make appropriate purchasing decisions” (Lynch & Vogel). Consumers worldwide have the right to know what they are purchasing and consuming. The FDA and United States need to consider changing their labeling requirements for GM food.