Law and science: risk assessment and risk management in the WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures

Burkard, Michael David (2011). Law and science: risk assessment and risk management in the WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures. (Dissertation, Univeristät Bern, Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät)

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Assessing and managing risks relating to the consumption of food stuffs for humans and to the environment has been one of the most complex legal issues in WTO law, ever since the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures was adopted at the end of the Uruguay Round and entered into force in 1995. The problem was expounded in a number of cases. Panels and the Appellate Body adopted different philosophies in interpreting the agreement and the basic concept of risk assessment as defined in Annex A para. 4 of the Agreement. Risk assessment entails fundamental question on law and science. Different interpretations reflect different underlying perceptions of science and its relationship to the law.
The present thesis supported by the Swiss National Research Foundation undertakes an in-depth analysis of these underlying perceptions. The author expounds the essence and differences of positivism and relativism in philosophy and natural sciences. He clarifies the relationship of fundamental concepts such as risk, hazards and probability. This investigation is a remarkable effort on the part of lawyer keen to learn more about the fundamentals based upon which the law – often unconsciously – is operated by the legal profession and the trade community. Based upon these insights, he turns to a critical assessment of jurisprudence both of panels and the Appellate Body. Extensively referring and discussing the literature, he deconstructs findings and decisions in light of implied and assumed underlying philosophies and perceptions as to the relationship of law and science, in particular in the field of food standards. Finding that both positivism and relativism does not provide adequate answers, the author turns critical rationalism and applies the methodologies of falsification developed by Karl R. Popper. Critical rationalism allows combining discourse in science and law and helps preparing the ground for a new approach to risk assessment and risk management.
Linking the problem to the doctrine of multilevel governance the author develops a theory allocating risk assessment to international for a while leaving the matter of risk management to national and democratically accountable government. While the author throughout the thesis questions the possibility of separating risk assessment and risk management, the thesis offers new avenues which may assist in structuring a complex and difficult problem

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)


02 Faculty of Law > Department of Economic Law > World Trade Institute
10 Strategic Research Centers > World Trade Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Burkard, Michael David, Cottier, Thomas, Oesch, Matthias


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 380 Commerce, communications & transportation




Igor Peter Hammer

Date Deposited:

16 Jun 2015 09:16

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:47



Additional Information:

e-Dissertation (edbe)




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