Accountability and Risk Governance: A Scenario-informed Reflection on European Regulation of GMOs
AbstractScientific and technological progress in an ever more globalized economy has resulted innew innovations, which have often contributed to improved living conditions (Archibugiand Iammarino 1999; Archibugi and Pietrobelli 2003; Castells 1999; International MonetaryFund 2000). Yet, the very same progress has produced unprecedented risks, which are oftenuncertain and incalculable in nature (Giddens 1991; Beck 1986, 1999). Such ‘uncertain risks’are usually associated with large-scale, long-term and transboundary hazards with whichsociety has no or only limited experience (van Asselt and Vos 2008; van Asselt et al. 2009).As a result, their risk potential is highly contested. An exemplary uncertain risk is posedby genetically modified organisms (GMOs).1 As it is contested whether GMOs constitutea risk to the environment and/or human health, scholars have pointed out that GMOsshould be conceived of in terms of uncertainty (ibid.; Lang and Hallmann 2005; Levidow etal. 2005). Indeed, even though scientific or historical proofs of harmful consequences withregard to GMOs are lacking, “suspicions cannot be fully refuted either” (van Asselt andVos 2008, 281). A decisive question is thus how to take decisions in the face of uncertainty(Beck 1999; Löfstedt, 2009).