Chapter 9: Properly paced? Examining the past and present governance of GMOs in the United States
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A case study of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in US agriculture and the environment illustrates the problem of policy systems to keep up or pace with advances in emerging technologies. This chapter describes the history of GMO governance in four phases, examining the oversight system’s ability to pace with technological developments in each phase. In general, government decisions for oversight of GMOs, particularly GM crops, seemed to pace well with technology in a temporal sense. However, they continue to be contested and do not seem appropriate in the longer term for ensuring safety, transparency and public confidence. The GM crop oversight system exhibited temporal pacing through flexible legal frameworks, but not proper pacing. This chapter argues for a broader notion of pacing that incorporates not only elements of timeliness, but also notions of appropriateness in dynamic societal contexts. It will conclude with proposed lessons from the US GMO oversight experience for developing a new prototype model of governance for emerging technologies that properly paces with technological advancements. This model is based upon three pillars: (i) upstream oversight assessment (a subset of anticipatory governance); (ii) dynamic oversight; and (iii) strong objectivity through more extensive public and stakeholder engagement in decision making. Scholars, including many of this book’s authors, have pointed out the inability of legal and regulatory frameworks to keep pace with technologies.

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