Cultural Politics and the Transatlantic Divide over GMOs by H. Stephan

By H. Stephan

Along different components, cultural values and identities support to provide an explanation for various regulatory frameworks for genetically changed organisms. This ebook makes use of insights from environmental historical past and sociology to light up the cultural politics of legislation within the US and the ecu, with specific realization to public opinion and anti-GMO activism.

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The new trajectory of political oversight and risk assessment reduced the likelihood of ever returning to a US-style, ‘science-based’ system of monitored self-regulation (Bernauer 2003: 81). The 1990s: Underlying trends and the ‘Years of Controversy’ Much of the debate over agbiotech ebbed away in subsequent years, retreating to the realm of institutional and bureaucratic politics or returning to the national sphere. As social scientists began to regularly use opinion polls to measure the public mood, it transpired that a significant level of concern existed and was actually growing throughout the early 1990s.

In Europe, both field trials and commercialisation of GM plants now required explicit regulatory consent. Two further important features of Directive 90/220, however, indicated the difficulty of this first attempt at harmonisation. Opposition stemmed not so much from non-state actors as from national governments. Public controversy continued to take place mostly at national rather than European levels, although its intensity was in gradual decline in the early 1990s. The biotechnology industry accepted the need for a regulatory framework for both economic reasons and the soothing effect on public opinion.

The US had long been the only significant exporter of GM produce and, thus, USDA never developed a dedicated import control policy that could serve to identify shipments of unapproved GMOs, such as GM rice from China (Melvin 2009). This perception of regulatory inadequacy is compounded by increasing complaints from agricultural scientists about independent testing of GMOs being made impossible by corporate concerns over patents and confidential information. Even some of the champions of agbiotech, such as former special government advisor on science and technology, Nina Fedoroff, acknowledge that these gaps undermine the government’s claim to sound, science-based regulation and do not help to enhance public confidence in agbiotech products (Gillam 2010).

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