November 01, 2012 Environment, Energy, and Resources Law

The Global Food System, Human Rights, and the Environment

Carmen G. Gonzalez

The global food system places enormous pressures on the planet’s ecosystems while failing to meet the nutritional needs of large segments of the world’s population. Fossil fuel–based industrial agriculture is one of the major sources of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and has increased the vulnerability of the world’s food supply to catastrophic crop failure by significantly decreasing its genetic diversity.

In the regulation of global agricultural trade, international trade law has taken precedence over human rights and environmental protection. The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA, 1995) has had a particularly profound impact. The AoA seeks to liberalize trade in agricultural products by requiring World Trade Organization (WTO) members to eliminate quantitative restrictions, lower tariff barriers, and reduce trade-distorting agricultural subsidies. To truly understand the impacts of the AoA, it is essential to place it in historic perspective.

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