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Labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms: Law, Science, Policy and Practice Open Access


Other title
Convention on Biological Diversity
Mandatory labelling
Labelling threshold
Scientific evidence
Genetically Mofidied Organism trade conflicts
Consumer's right to know
Voluntary labelling
Truthful advertising
Precautionary Principle
Consumers' willingness to pay
Labelling of Genetically Modified Organisms
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Du, Li
Supervisor and department
Caulfield, Timothy (Faculty of Law)
Reif, Linda (Faculty of Law)
Examining committee member and department
McHughen, Alan (College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of California, UC Riverside)
Griener, Glenn (Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts)
An, Henry (Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Science)
Nelson, Erin (Faculty of Law)
Faculty of Law

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been the subject of a global debate for decades. This dissertation, by conducting comprehensive and inter-disciplinary research – from legal, scientific, political and practical perspectives, aims to provide an in-depth analysis of fundamental factors that have contributed to the formation of different labelling regimes, and to justify claims of significant concerns that an optimal labelling regime should be based on and protect. It finds that not only rationales for a mandatory GMO labelling system cannot be justified but also the implementation of mandatory labelling measures may trigger a number of pragmatic problems. It is worth noting that mandatory GMO labelling measures, which lead to conflicts in global agricultural trade, might well violate WTO trade law obligations that are binding on Canada, China, the EU and the US etc. Based on these findings, this study supports voluntary labelling requirements and stands in sharp contrast to the mandatory labelling regimes implemented by the EU and other jurisdictions. It argues that three conditions should be considered to establish an optimal GMO domestic labelling regime. They are: (1) the regime must be based on scientific evidence; (2) it must employ scientific risk assessment and management as the basis for labelling requirements; and (3) the labelling should be accurate and the mission of GMO labelling should be primarily to protect the health of consumers. It thereby suggests that the mandatory labelling requirement should be abandoned in all jurisdictions, and replaced with a voluntary labelling regime and a globally harmonized system of GMO approval procedures and detection methods. The dissertation ends with some lessons drawn from the current GMO labelling controversies to ensure better management of future GMO labelling conflicts and regulation of new agricultural biotechnology. It offers suggestions for perfecting the current Canadian GMO labelling regime.  
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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