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Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) allows governments to enact trade measures to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, provided that the provisions do not discriminate and are not used as disguised protectionism. In addition, two specific World Trade Organization agreements deal with food safety, animal and plant health and safety, and product standards in general.

The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement) lays out the basic rules on food safety and on animal and plant health standards. It allows countries to set their own standards, but it stipulates that regulations must be based on science and should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health.

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