Biotechnology Regulation and GMOs

Biotechnology Regulation and GMOs

Law, Technology and Public Contestations in Europe

Biotechnology Regulation series

Naveen Thayyil

This book examines the EU regulatory framework in the Genetic Modification of agriculture and food to see how adequately EU law treats serious contestations about the development and use of GMOs. Since linkages between law, technology and public contestations could have a crucial dimension in the shaping of democratic societies, the space EU law provides for publics outside of the scientific experts to shape the regulation of GMOs becomes significant. By examining the employment of the precautionary principle and (the advices from) public bioethics committees in GMO regulation, this book examines the policy claim of public participation as a mechanism to represent and mediate public contestations about the use and regulation of GMOs.

Chapter 6: Public contestations and pursuit of public values

Naveen Thayyil

Subjects: environment, biotechnology, environmental law, law - academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical law, environmental law, regulation and governance


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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