EU regulation of agri-biotechnology: precautionary links between science, expertise and policy

Levidow, Les; Carr, Susan and Wield, David (2005). EU regulation of agri-biotechnology: precautionary links between science, expertise and policy. Science and Public Policy, 32(4) pp. 261–276.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3152/147154305781779452

URL: http://open.library.ingentaconnect.com/content/bee...

Abstract

For the agri-biotechnology sector, the European Union has developed a precautionary framework to provide a more rigorous and transparent basis for regulatory decisions. In parallel, the European Commission has established the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to provide the Commission with objective, independent advice. Despite such institutional reforms in the EU, regulatory procedures for GM products are still held up by disagreements among experts, whereby claims about a product’s safety often correspond to a more narrow account of precaution than broader counter-claims from objectors. In the EU, we argue, it is these conflicts over safety claims that have given practical meaning to the concept of precaution, rather than any explicit interpretation or application of an a priori principle. Through dynamic tensions between those various claims and accounts of precaution, EU regulatory-expert procedures have identified and addressed more scientific uncertainties than before. But EU decisions about GM products still encounter legitimacy problems, because they arise fundamentally from the great burden placed on science as the basis for societal choices about agri-biotechnology.

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