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

Birds of a feather? Food and agricultural risk governance of avian influenza in different EU Member States

From 2005 onwards, highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) spread towards and eventually within Europe via different border-crossing flows, including those of wild birds and agricultural trade. Fear existed that via such movements, the virus would disseminate into and across territorially-based poultry farms, with different animal health and welfare, economic and social problems as a result. Given this duality between international virus flows and place-based animal holding practices, at what governance level could the avian influenza threat to Europe best be dealt with? At the transnational level of the EU, where managerial standardisation based on universalistic science and a strong market-orientation is more likely to be found; or at the national level, where situation-specific knowledge and practices of farmers and citizen-consumers are more likely to enter the equation? This paper examines food and agricultural risk governance of avian influenza in the EU Member States France, the UK, and the Netherlands, as well as on EU level. It does so based on policy document analyses, combined with 40 in-depth interviews with representatives of relevant international, EU and Member State institutions, food supply chain actors, NGOs and scientists. The paper discusses how in the interaction between these stakeholders, Members States have gained room for manoeuvre to adopt policy measures attuned to situation-specific circumstances, including socio-historical, economic, spatial, and natural ones. Moreover, it discerns consequences of this development for the understanding of European food and agricultural risk governance under conditions of reflexive modernity, with a special focus on the tension between Member State-based differentiation of governance measures and the functioning of the single European market, and the underlying characteristics of institutionalised distinctions between expert and citizen-consumer rationalities.