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Moratoria in international politics: a comparative analysis of the moratoria on genetically modified products and commercial whaling

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tim Gray



Little research has been conducted into the role of moratoria in international politics despite their importance in many areas of policy-making. This paper investigates that role by a comparative analysis of two of the most prominent moratoria in recent years: the moratorium on genetically modified (GM) products imposed by the European Union (EU) in 1999; and the moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1982. The main finding of the study is that while the formal role of these moratoria was to postpone making a substantive decision until further scientific research had been carried out, in practice they served very different political purposes: the EU GM moratorium dampened down political heat while the EU was under pressure from Member States regarding environmental issues and from the USA regarding trade issues; whereas the IWC moratorium was a moral denunciation of killing whales. The wider implication of the analysis is that moratoria are complex phenomena, varied in their functions and effects, and they deserve to be studied more seriously

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lieberman S, Gray T, Groom AJR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Politics and International Relations

Year: 2012

Volume: 14

Issue: 4

Pages: 518-533

Print publication date: 19/12/2011

Date deposited: 30/03/2013

ISSN (print): 1369-1481

ISSN (electronic): 1467-856X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-856X.2011.00479.x


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