Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Moira McConnell


Recent developments in genetic modification and the use of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) in agriculture have ignited a debate over the potential effects of these organisms on biological diversity. This controversy materializes in the clash between the international environmental and trade regimes. Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) focus on the preservation of biological diversity and, in the case of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (Cartagena Protocol), the safe transfer of LMOs. These Agreements encourage States to base national decisions to allow LMO imports on environmental and risk assessments using the precautionary principle. On the other hand the international trade regime under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and regional arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), seek to establish free trade (including trade involving LMOs) by eliminating national level measures that can create trade barriers. However this regime does allow States to enact national protective measures, to preserve human and animal health as well as natural resources, based on scientific evidence.

This Dissertation is concerned with Mexico's implementation of the CBD, the Cartagena Protocol, and implementation challenges this biodiversity-rich country encounters in this endeavor. It argues that the preservation of biological diversity is paramount, not only for the survival of plant and animal species but also for the subsistence of human beings on earth and that the implementation of these environmental Agreements has the potential to preserve such resources. Mexico's failure to preserve its indigenous maize from transgenic maize imports is examined as a case study to highlight the difficulties faced by transitional economy countries: in addition to domestic capacity issues they must also meet their obligations under MEAs and the international trade agreements. This Dissertation suggests that Mexico's difficulties provide some lessons to other countries in implementing these Agreements. It asserts that, although Mexico has embraced the international commitments contained in the CBD and the Cartagena Protocol, the country still faces important legislative, institutional and policy challenges that prevent it from effectively implementing these Agreements. In particular it is argued that the lack of biosafety regulations and long-term environmental policies as well as deficient enforcement systems prevent Mexico from effectively implementing these Agreements.

This Dissertation concludes its analysis of Mexico's implementation of the CBD and the Cartagena Protocol by proposing a number of legal and institutional measures to improve the implementation of these environmental Agreements in Mexico, including the need to strengthen monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in the Cartagena Protocol's Compliance Committee and the enactment of biosafety regulations to support the implementation of Mexico's Biosafety Law on GMOs. It also proposes a number of mechanisms that could be adopted at the global and regional level to assist countries in more effectively implementing their obligations.