Law, Technology and Public Contestations in Europe
Biotechnology Regulation series
Chapter 6: Public contestations and pursuit of public values
This chapter investigates the room for wider public participation in the pursuit of public values during EU regulation of the development and use of GMOs. Competing and conflicting values exist not only about consumption but also about the development of technologies like GMOs in the EU. The implications of not focusing on the existence of conflicting public values are to allow the values dominant among the industry and techno-scientific communities to have a free rein in the design and development of technology. If development and use of technology have to be justified in terms of commensurate public values, the regulatory routes to identifying and elaborating those values become crucial. Hence it is important that law facilitates the characterization and representation of these public values during the regulation of GMOs. The description here continues from the discussion in the previous chapter, where the need for elaboration of the manner in which public values are pursued in the EU GMO regulation was noted. Currently, there are two strategies apparent in the EU regulation of GMOs in its engagement with protection of public values. The Irish Council for Bioethics succinctly identified the first, viz., protection of the public from harm by progressing in a cautious and stepwise manner (through risk regulation), and protecting the ethical autonomy of the consumer to choose through adequate labelling and coexistence strategies. Labelling laws help pursue personal ethical choices of consumers inclined to consume GM products, while others averse to them can avoid them.
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