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Trade Wars and GM labeling in Food Products

On September 29, 2000, Thailand filed a complaint to the WTO against Egypt. Thailand wished for arbitration regarding Egypt 's decision to ban Thai tuna, which Egypt claimed was packaged in genetically modified soybean oil. Thailand 's reason for petitioning the WTO involved Egypt 's claim that it actually had a method of detecting for GM soybean oil (“Thailand”, 2000). This case raises the issue of how genetically modified foods can affect the trading relations between two countries, as well as illustrate underlying issues such as the labeling of GM products in processed foods, knowing when exactly food is considered to be “genetically modified,” as well as the public's reaction to issues of genetic modification.

Key Players

While Thailand and Egypt play very typical roles in the GM food debate, they are not the major countries involved in the debate regarding the trade of GM foods. That distinction belongs to the United States and the countries comprising the European Union. At its most basic level, the US has spearheaded the development of GM crops and is championing the use of genetic modification as a safe and viable option for increasing output and nutritional value, while the EU is wary of both the potential health risks and alienating an already cautious public that has been harmed by so-called safe food products in the past (Ladage, 2000). After a few government “scandals” which included the failure to contain the spread of Mad Cow disease in the UK , and dioxin contamination in Belgian food, citizens of the EU are now much more reluctant to trust claims that GM foods are safe for consumption (Victor and Runge, 2002). A 1999 survey found that 68% of Europeans were concerned about the safety of their food (Wittenburg, 1999).


This page is part of an assignment for a Genetically Modified Organisms seminar at Davidson College, Davidson, NC

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Last updated: February 11, 2004 by Will Greendyke