Some Thoughts on the American Approach to Regulating Genetically Modified Organisms

31 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2007 Last revised: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Rebecca M. Bratspies

Rebecca M. Bratspies

City University of New York - School of Law


A healthy society needs room for genuine dialogue, particularly over issues of how to evaluate and weigh risks to public safety. When citizens do not have confidence in the regulatory systems that purport to protect them, social trust breaks down. The lack of a transparent, well-organized regulatory system threatens public trust in biotechnology and more fundamentally in government itself. The success of agricultural biotechnology depends on society's willingness to accept and consume food produced via this technology. This willingness hinges on the level of trust that the technology is being developed and used in a safe manner.

This needed trust is multilayered - the consumer must trust that the scientists know what they are doing in developing these crops, that the companies marketing and distributing the crops are operating in a legal and ethical manner, that the regulators are exercising proper oversight, that the farmers are obeying the regulations, and that the consumer is not being lied to or misled. The presence or absence of trust dramatically affects communications about and perceptions of risk. As a result, a credible oversight scheme and trust in the institutions promoting and overseeing agricultural biotechnology may be the single biggest predictors of public acceptance of this technology

Because the development, production and marketing of GM crops requires the activities of so many different parties, there are multiple levels on which this process can break down, creating suspicion and mistrust. This article explores fundamental questions about the relationship between transparency, trust and acceptability of risk and makes some recommendations about the role that public voices should play in regulatory policy.

Keywords: genetically modified organism, GMO, LMO, biotechnology, agriculture, GM crops, regulation, transparency, trust

JEL Classification: k10, k32

Suggested Citation

Bratspies, Rebecca M., Some Thoughts on the American Approach to Regulating Genetically Modified Organisms. Kansas Journal of Law & Pubic Policy, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Rebecca M. Bratspies (Contact Author)

City University of New York - School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics