Risk Regulation, GMOs, and the Limits of Deliberation
The European Union Council of Ministers (eds. Daniel Naurin & Helen Wallace) (Palgrave MacMillan), pages 144-164, 2008
24 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2008
Over the past two decades, scholars of international law and international relations have drawn attention to the promise of deliberation as a logic of social action. In this “logic of arguing,” political actors do not simply bargain based on fixed preferences and relative power, they may also “argue,” questioning their own beliefs and interests and being open to persuasion and the power of a better argument. Despite the promise of deliberation as an alternative to power politics, particularly in deeply institutionalized settings such as the European Union, we argue that deliberation may be akin to a hothouse flower, which flourishes only under a set of conditions, including what Risse calls a “common lifeworld” and actors’ uncertainties about their own interests. In this chapter, prepared for a book on the Council of the European Union (EU), we empirically analyze the role of deliberation in the making and implementation of EU law on agricultural biotechnology. The assessment and approval of individual GM foods and crops is a highly technical exercise, undertaken primarily by the European Commission, but with the supervision of “comitology” committees of member-state representatives, and ultimately by the Council of Ministers. Existing accounts of EU risk regulation identify it as a technical area ripe for truth-seeking deliberation among EU policy-makers, yet we find we find little evidence of meaningful deliberation in either comitology committees or in the Council. Instead, the record of EU decision-making on GMOs is one of bitter disputes, bargaining from fixed positions, formal voting, and ultimate deadlock in decision after decision over two decades. Deliberation, we argue, has not found a receptive home in the politically charged area of GMO regulation, underlining the limits to a form of decision-making that holds great promise in theory, but often fails to manifest itself in practice.
Keywords: risk regulation, GMOs, environmental law and policy
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