EU agbiotech controversy: what has been on trial?

Levidow, Les and Carr, Susan (2010). EU agbiotech controversy: what has been on trial? Soziale Technik, Graz.



Since the 1980s agbiotech has been promoted as a symbol of European progress and political-economic integration. By the late 1990s, however, agbiotech was being turned into a symbol of anxiety about multiple threats: the food chain, agro-industrial methods, their inherent hazards, global market competition, state irresponsibility and political unaccountability through globalisation. Agbiotech was turned into a symbol, object and catalyst for multiple overlapping trials. Beneficent claims were challenged along several lines: safety versus precaution, eco-efficiency versus agro-industrial hazards, and globalisation versus democratic sovereignty. Activists’ accusations were taken up by large environmentalist and farmers’ organisations, as well as by wider groups in civil society, acting as a pervasive mobile ‘jury’. In these ways, protest challenged the democratic legitimacy of a biotech-driven development pathway, while also creating greater scope for alternative pathways.

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