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Trade, Science, and Genetically Modified Foods

Author: David G. Victor, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Science and Technology

Trade, Science, and Genetically Modified Foods - trade-science-and-genetically-modified-foods

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations

Release Date March 13, 2001

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Overview

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 today's 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.

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 today's 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 countries' 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 WTO's 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 nation's food safety laws. The WTO also affects this issue through its treatment of intellectual property. WTO's 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 world's 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 Foundation's 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 WTO's 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 world's 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 WTO's 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 WTO's 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 latter's 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 WTO's 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 WTO's 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).

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