What is the relationship between science, policy and regulation in the context of debates about the future of agricultural biotechnology? This paper explores the real world of policy-making and regulation surrounding agricultural biotechnology. The starting point is a view of policy-making which is non-linear, incremental, contested and negotiated. This involves a critical examination of the competing discourses and narratives which frame the debate, the forms of practice that make up day-to-day actions in policy and regulatory arenas, the underlying political, economic and social interests which are both influential and excluded, and the complex and often changing networks of actors involved. The paper first outlines some of the particular challenges for biotechnology policy and regulation. The following section explores notions of ‘sound science’ and ‘precaution’ in the context of risk assessment before examining the application of science in biotechnology policy and regulation through a series of examples. These show how regulatory science sets an interpretative frame for the establishment and implementation of regulations. Highlighting the social and political commitments of such scientific knowledge, the notion of an abstract, objective ‘sound science’ as the foundation for regulatory decision-making can be opened up to questioning. Finally, particular issues for developing countries are raised, with the conclusion outlining some of the challenges for regulatory policy.
IDS Working Paper 147, Biotechnology Policy Series 3. Brighton, UK: IDS. ISBN 1-85864-403-8, 43 pp.