Authors: Gregory Shaffer and Mark Pollack
Regulating Between National Fears and Global Disciplines:
Agricultural Biotechnology in the EU
In this paper, we develop three interrelated arguments about the nature of GMO regulation and the challenges that it poses to the European Union (EU). First, we highlight the inherently multi-sectoral nature of GMO regulation, which links together the internal market with industrial policy, research and technological development, environmental policy, food safety, agriculture, and international trade. As a multi-sectoral issue, the regulation of GMOs raises the challenge of coordinating policymaking horizontally among a large number of public and private actors with diverse perspectives about the aims and the content of EU regulation.
Second, we emphasize the multi-level nature of the process, which involves overlapping and sometimes conflicting regulations promulgated at the national, supranational/EU, and international levels. As such, EU policy has faced sharp political and legal challenges both from below (in the form of national revolts against the licensing of individual GM foods and crops) and from above (in the form of challenges from other countries within the World Trade Organization, or WTO).
Third, the regulation of GM foods and crops is an instance of a broader category of “risk regulation,” in which government actors are called upon to adopt regulations about the acceptable degree of risk posed to society by products or industrial processes. Such decisions about risk regulation – including the regulation of GMOs – not only mobilize diverse interest groups, they also raise fundamental normative questions about the degree of risk judged to be acceptable to society, as well as about the roles of science and politics in the regulation of risk under uncertainty. As such, risk regulation raises fundamental questions of the legitimacy of decision-making at different levels of government, and, in particular, for our case, at the supranational level of EU institutions.
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