9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Risk, Governance and Biotechnology Building I, 1E6

Stakeholder Consultations in the European Governance of GMO in the Food Chain: A Democratization of Expertise?

Since the food scares during the 1990s and the following public concerns, regulatory approaches such as stakeholder consultations are a key governance tool aimed at restoring public confidence and at enhancing legitimacy for policy options. In the Regulation (EC) 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 28th, 2002, procedures are laid down that provide for "open and transparent public consultation, directly or through representative bodies, during the preparation, evaluation and revision of food law". This paper focuses on stakeholder consultations in one particular field: the governance of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the European Union. GMO have been controversial since they first appeared in the late 1980s. The political turmoil surrounding the GMO case, the technical complexity, the cut across several policy domains, its economic and industrial importance, the uncertainties involved as well as the public distrust makes it a fascinating topic for scholars in numerous research fields. Although much has been written about democratic participation surrounding GMO through participatory and deliberative projects at the national or sub-national level, the main question addressed in this chapter is how democratic participatory and deliberative ideals have been translated at the EU-level in this politically sensitive and highly technical field. Two cases of stakeholder consultations will be examined: a stakeholder advisory group and a stakeholder conference. The first case refers to the Advisory Group on the Food Chain and Animal and Plant Health, formed in 2004. The second case refers to the conference on "Co-existence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops "freedom of choice", held in 2006. Both consultative processes have brought together a wide range of stakeholders: farmers and consumers associations, NGOs, seed producers, importers, food and feed processors, etc. Based on extensive document analysis and a series of interviews with central stakeholders and policy-makers, the paper aims at providing answers to the following question: To what extent are stakeholder consultations a tool for democratizing both procedures and epistemology/expertise? Does democratization in this sense concern the mere form (procedures) or even the content (epistemology/expertise)?