The Role of International Agreements in Achieving Food Security: How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Feed a Village?

By Bobo, Jack A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, October 2007 | Go to article overview

The Role of International Agreements in Achieving Food Security: How Many Lawyers Does It Take to Feed a Village?


Bobo, Jack A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

This Article discusses how international agreements impact the ability of science and technology to enhance food security. International agreements, domestic laws, and regulations have the power to promote scientific research and the adoption of new technology through effective, efficient, and predictable science-based regulatory systems, or to impede development and adoption of new technology by miring it in burdensome or unnecessary regulations. This Article examines the disparate impacts of international agreements on food security through a case study of agricultural biotechnology. In particular, the Article looks at the principles and guidelines for risk assessment developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Article concludes that agreements related to biosafety and sustainable development may have impacts beyond their stated objectives that can negatively impact efforts to achieve food security. By ensuring that a wider range of interests are considered in the development of these agreements, the final agreements will better reflect the economic and social realities of all the parties.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I. THE CASE OF AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY
     A. Facilitating Science and Technology:
        Codex Alimentarius Commission
     B. Biosafety: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
        to the Convention on Biological Diversity
        1. View from Africa
        2. Raising the Regulatory Bar: Science-Based
           Decision Making Versus the
           Precautionary Principle
 II.  ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL WHEN IT COMES
      TO REGULATIONS
III.  CONCLUSION

Science and technology have an important impact on the quality, quantity, and availability of food in the developing world with regard to the "four food groups": food security, food safety, food policy, and food defense. While the main impact of science and technology is at the local level, many of the policies and rules that promote or stifle technological development are established at the international level. This Article will discuss how international agreements impact the ability of science and technology to enhance food security in the developing world.

According to the African Union (AU) report, African Common Position on the Review of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, "[t]he acquisition and use of science and technology is critical in raising food production and extending productive opportunities outside the traditional land resources and in ensuring food availability, affordability and stability of access." (1) International agreements and domestic laws and regulations have the power to promote scientific research and adoption of new technology through effective, efficient, and predictable science-based regulatory systems, or to impede development and adoption of new technology by miring it in burdensome or unnecessary regulations. If the policymakers and the lawyers can achieve the right balance--between innovation and safety on the one hand, and productivity and the environment on the other--then new technologies will reach the farmer. With that and a little luck, food security will increase.

Of course, achieving the appropriate balance is not easy. International agreements can facilitate access to and adoption of new technology by promoting a domestic regulatory environment conducive to technology development and commercialization. Alternatively, international agreements can slow the introduction of technologies by establishing barriers to development, commercialization, and trade in new products.

Predictable, science-based regulatory systems that balance the need for technological innovation with the important goals of biosafety and sustainable development are critical components of the economic development framework for the acquisition and use of science and technology that policy makers in developing countries must address to achieve their food security goals. …

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