Book Reviews: The Regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms, Comparative Approaches


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Keywords: GMO: Genetically Modified Organisms, environmental regulation, risk, cost-benefit analysis, public participation, co-existence, biotech.

The introduction to this very interesting and informative edited collection of essays begins by highlighting the fact that GMOs have become an established feature of the worlds agricultural landscape. This may well be the case, yet their role within that landscape remains controversial and is the subject of many inconsistencies and contradictions. Major agricultural exporters - such as the United States, Brazil and Argentina - have strongly embraced the development of GMO-based agriculture. In contrast, other countries have been reluctant to follow suit. Most notably, perhaps, relatively little land is being used to grow GMO-based crops in the European Union. At the same time EU law and policy has, hitherto at least, been supportive of GMO-based agriculture and foods containing GMO products. Its policy promotes a vision of an EU agricultural policy that supports conventional, GMO-based and organic methods and its laws prevent, with debatable success, the establishment of GMO-free zones.

Yet public opinion remains wary of foods containing GMOs. Elsewhere, GMO-based crops have often been promoted as the answer to global famine and food shortages. Yet many of the countries visited by these tenible events have viewed these crops with much less enthusiasm. These are just some of the conundrums affecting the regulation of GMOs explored in the essays published in this book.

The book is divided into four sections, entitled 'The Public, Economics and Risk', 'The European Union', 'Regulation beyond the European Union' and 'International Implications'. The first section begins with a paper by the editors which explores the role the public plays in regulating GMOs. They contrast the relatively limited role played by the public in formal regulatory processes with the practical impact of consumer preferences and public protests. Bodiguel later returns to this theme in the book's conclusion, focusing on the campaign of civil disobedience waged in France. The two other papers in this section concentrate upon the regulatory process itself, exploring the role played by cost-benefit analyses and re-evaluating the use of risk assessment, both within the regulatory process and subsequently by courts, should that process subsequently be challenged.

The second section begins with two papers that explore the European Unions regulatory framework concerning GMOs and analyse the difficulties inherent in seeking to operate a system of multi-level governance within an area that is so politically sensitive. They point to the present and likely future direction of EU policy. The book continues with three papers on the highly topical issues of co-existence between GMO and conventional crops and the role of the Environmental Liability Directive. The first paper explores the Commissions guidelines, designed to reduce the extent to which cross pollination occurs between GMO-based and conventional crops and the labelling and the, legally binding, labelling and traceability requirements. Linked to this, the next paper concentrates on France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom in exploring the rather leisurely response of Member States to the Commissions guidelines, in imple-menting measures to limit cross pollination.

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