GMOs are the links of our centralized food system, largely dependent on international trade. GMOs are inherently unsustainable because they reduce biodiversity, harm the environment, and empower positive feedback loops between monocultures, industrial agriculture, and biodiversity depletion, thereby jeopardizing food safety, security, and sovereignty. Conglomerates of multi-national companies, in short BigAg, shape multi-lateral food trade and flood international markets with their small array and enormous volumes of crops, while controlling large aspects of agriculture and food production world-wide. Zooming in on the trans-Atlantic dispute about GE crops, this paper uses comparative law to explore how a cap-and-trade model borrowed from climate change policy might help to decentralize the current food system, thereby potentially restoring locally-oriented agriculture and food integrity.

GMOs are under-regulated in the US and international trade frameworks enable the centralization of trans-Atlantic food systems, dominated by the US. This is possible because of the free trade/biotechnology policy in the US and the agricultural exceptionalism, which are, in theory, obstacles to food integrity. By comparison, the precautionary and protectionist approaches in the EU facilitate some food integrity, albeit not enough as a result of US trade pressures. The pressures could be partially lifted if there were a cap on those crops that enable the centralization of the system, namely GE crops patented and produced by US-American BigAg conglomerates. Essentially, when GE corn, soy, wheat, rice were capped in permissible trade volumes, other non-GE crops may enter the market, thereby diversifying and decentralizing food systems, encouraging local agriculture, and opening pathways where more sustainable practices could be instituted.

In an effort to contextualize the herein proposed cap-and-trade upstream model regulation of GMOs borrowed from climate change policy, this paper explains the distinctions between GE and conventionally bred crops, between agriculture and food law, between the US free trade and the EU protectionism approaches (including the bedrocks of each legal framework) to trading GE crops, as well as the inherent dangers of the widespread use of GMOs in the trans-Atlantic food system. A likely conclusion of this paper will be that a cap-and-trade model, as proposed, may take decades to be passed into law, if ever, but it also highlights that the links between preserving food integrity, mitigating climate change, and maintaining open food trade are ripe for progressive and pro-active review.