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 7: Conclusion

Naveen Thayyil

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


This book sought to identify the space for public participation in the EU regulation of GMOs, given the problem of representation in liberal democracies regarding governance of emerging technologies. During the discussion in various chapters, the scope for public evaluations of social value and utility of new technologies emerged as an important theme in the regulation of new technologies. Social value was noted to be a crucial element in public appraisals of emerging technologies like GMOs, especially in the face of complex and unstable underlying scientific knowledge that informed risk regulation. Public bioethics committees like the EGE and the Danish Council have emphasized the important connections between the social purpose of a new technology and the public acceptance of basic scientific incertitudes about the development and employment of GMOs. These reports found questions like who would substantially benefit from the employment of such technologies, and whether there are equally viable alternative technologies that involve less scientific instability, as important considerations in the regulation of GMOs. This has important implications for the room for public participation in EU regulation of GMOs. Risk regulation was found to be the predominant route through which GMOs are currently regulated in the EU. Participatory discourse is often invoked to make the political management of risk more acceptable to the general public. In this book, risk is contended to include public trust and engagement in its conceptual core, in contrast to a bifurcated model of risk that conceptualizes techno-scientific communities as the sole custodian of risk assessment.

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