Precautionary Expertise for GM Crops (PEG): EU Workshop Report

Levidow, Les (2003). Precautionary Expertise for GM Crops (PEG): EU Workshop Report. Centre for Technology Strategy, The Open University.


This policy workshop was organised as part of the research project, ‘Precautionary Expertise for GM Crops’ (PEG), funded by the European Commission. The project includes research partners in seven member states (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and UK) and is co-ordinated by the Open University (UK).

For regulating GM crops and their food uses, the precautionary principle has been widely accepted in Europe, but its meaning can be contentious. Indeed, it can have diverse meanings. The PEG project is analysing how current European practices – regulatory measures, expert bodies and stakeholder roles – compare with different accounts of the precautionary principle. How do these accounts inform policies and practices regarding GM crops? And how do they facilitate (or impede) efforts to mediate conflicts?

From the findings of the research, we will suggest:

• how to clarify EU guidelines, so that they better reflect national regulatory measures, and so that decision-making procedures can be publicly accountable and scientifically defensible

• how expert bodies could better accommodate public-scientific controversy within their judgements

• how national practices could contribute to an EU-level precautionary expertise

• how to enhance policy learning about these issues among users of the research findings.

To achieve these aims, the project has involved stakeholders and policy-makers at an early stage of the research, in order to ensure that it is policy-relevant and incorporates emerging issues. EU-level advisory panel meetings were held in Brussels in March and September 2002, to consult on the research plan and preliminary results. Advisors were also consulted about how best to structure scenario-analysis exercises for the policy workshops.

These workshops were held by national partners in their countries in early 2003. Drawing upon those experiences, the project coordinator organised an EU-level workshop in July 2003. This report discusses the context, background, method, results and implications of that workshop.

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