Regulatory standards for environmental risks: understanding the US-European Union conflict over Genetically Modified Crops

Murphy, Joseph; Levidow, Les and Carr, Susan (2006). Regulatory standards for environmental risks: understanding the US-European Union conflict over Genetically Modified Crops. Social Studies of Science, 36(1) pp. 133–160.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312705054591

URL: http://sss.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/36/1/1...

Abstract

US (United States) and EU (European Union) approaches to the regulation of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are often explained using the ideas of 'sound science' and the 'precautionary principle'. These stereotypes, however, can be misleading. They can conceal conflicts within jurisdictions and important interactions between them. This paper avoids these ideas and instead analyzes conflicts and interactions associated with the regulation of GMOs in the US and the EU, using the example of Bt maize -- a genetically modified crop. It focuses on risk assessment as a standard-setting process, and explains changes in regulatory standards. In this case, public protest and trade conflict created an opportunity for a transatlantic network of critical scientists to challenge regulatory standards and for NGOs (non-government organizations) to press for higher ones. The paper links two analytical perspectives to account for how this happened. 'Regulatory science' helps explain what happens when the 'private' government-industry-academia network associated with risk regulation is opened up to greater public scrutiny. It also helps to explain how the context and content of regulatory science mutually shape each other. 'Trading up' helps to explain opportunities and pressures to raise regulatory standards associated with US-EU trade liberalisation and trade conflict.

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