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Regulating risk : explaining diverging labeling policies between Canada and the European Union and whether these differences can be reconciled Bognar, M. Julia


This paper deals with the causes behind policy divergence concerning non-product related production and process methods (nprPPMs), specifically Canada’s preference for voluntary labeling regimes and the European Union’s (EU) preference for mandatory labeling regimes. The causes behind this divergence are explored in three case studies: labels for genetically modified foods, animal welfare labels, and ecolabeling. Particular attention is paid to the differing approaches to risk analysis (RAF), namely that Canada employs a scientific-based approach to this framework, while the EU more often employs a social-based approach. While it has been common for many academics to attribute these diverging approaches to differences in consumer preferences and civic interests, this paper argues that these explanations do not fully account for these policy outcomes, as demonstrated by the similarities in consumer preferences and civic movements in these regions. Instead, diverging regulatory approaches are caused by systematic institutional differences. This paper then focuses on reconciling trade barriers caused by diverging regulatory approaches using methods of policy coordination, specifically mutual recognition agreements as a bilateral approach and policy harmonization as a multilateral approach. In regards to policy harmonization, relevant international agreements and organizations pertaining to nprPPM labeling regulations are discussed, most notably relevant WTO rules. This paper concludes that bilateral efforts to reduce the negative trade effects caused by the three case studies will be extremely difficult to resolve due to the fact that Canada and the EU are engaged in a regulatory competition between global powers for the dominance of either a science-based, or social based approach to RAF. This competition has resulted in vague international rules, which are therefore incapable of facilitating policy harmonization at the multilateral level. This paper will conclude that Canada and the EU are unlikely able to reconcile trade barriers caused by at least of the two case studies discussed here, GM food labels and animal welfare labels. Recommendations are made for bilateral and multilateral efforts to prevent further trade barriers caused by future nprPPM regulations.

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