This article was first published in: 96 American Journal of International Law 606 (2002)


In the event of a conflict between the requirements of the Biosafety Protocol, a multilateral agreement governing the trade in genetically modified organisms, and the requirements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and associated agreements (collectively WTO Agreements), which treaty's requirements prevail? This question lies as the legal heart of the perceived conflict between trade globalization and environmental protection. This issue is particularly timely given the present trade dispute between the United States and European Union over the European Union’s restrictions on the importation of genetically modified agricultural commodities.

In this piece, I analyze the relationship between these agreements. I conclude that while the “savings clause” language ultimately included in the Biosafety Protocol preserves countries’ rights and obligations under the WTO Agreements, the Protocol and the WTO Agreements are less on a collision course than some may fear.


Environmental Law | International Law | International Trade Law

Date of this Version

July 2002