|dc.description.abstract||This paper considers the challenges entailed in applying the principles and methods of public participation
to national and international policy processes. It draws on evidence from the field of biotechnology policy
and biosafety regulation in Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malaysia,
Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe.
The paper makes a distinction between the regulatory-scientific concept of “biosafety” and the more
encompassing and socially-defined politics of “biotechnology”. “Biosafety”, developed largely at the
international level, frames the regulatory issues relating to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within
narrow and technically-defined boundaries. As a consequence of the drive to harmonise and normalise
biosafety regulation internationally, it has confronted the more diverse, unruly and contested politics of
biotechnology at national and local levels.
The way in which participation occurs in practice is shaped and constrained by the interplay of the
politics of “biosafety” and international harmonisation on one hand, and the more inclusive politics of
biotechnology on the other, in particular national contexts. The experiences of the 16 countries are
discussed along three dimensions: the influence of the European Union’s moratorium on GMOs; their
domestic contexts (including ecological, socio-economic and political-cultural factors, as well as
international aid, trade and investment relationships); and their domestic capacity in biotechnology
research and development.
While there are positive examples to be found in the experiences of different countries, generally
there is an unsatisfactory compromise between the obligation to promote public participation and the
need to conform to international standards. Often, lip service is paid to participation without providing
the substance. More seriously, even when governments have the will to include the public in decision
making, they may lack the capacity to do so effectively, or to stand by the concerns of their publics in the
face of opposition from powerful foreign countries.||en_GB