Theme 4: Public participation and the politics of policy

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Overview

Governing technologies in favour of ‘pro-poor’ outcomes is a major challenge. The research contained in this section shows that, while there is much rhetoric about ‘pro-poor biotechnology’, the evidence on the ground is wanting. Getting publics – farmers, consumers, traders and others – involved in debates about biotechnology, its design, use and regulation, is vital. Research in this section includes a number of reviews of public participation in biosafety regulation, and the challenges this implies. This combines with reports on a series of experiments in and reflections on deliberative approaches to discussion agriculture futures and the role of GM crops based on citizens’ juries.

Key findings include:

  • Conflicting perspectives and interests always exist around the future, particularly when a controversial technology such as GM is concerned. Debate and dispute should be expected, and deliberation on key issues encouraged.
  • Approaches to inclusive deliberation include citizens’ juries and scenario workshops. These can be useful in convening discussions about alternative options, and providing a space for alternative views – beyond those of technocrats, industry lobbyists, and government personnel – to be heard. There are however limitations to such approaches. All deliberative and participatory spaces are subject to power dynamics. Careful attention needs to be applied to making sure all perspectives are heard, in an open and transparent way. Dissent and disagreement is to be expected, and needs to be acknowledged as part of the process.
  • A much more serious problem occurs when so-called participatory and consultative policy processes are tacked on to a policy process that imposes standardised, normative models of governance, where the risks are pre-defined by scientific experts and there is no room for citizens’ concerns or priorities to frame the process. Much of the international ‘capacity-building’ support for developing countries has fallen into this trap. Giving the appearance of taking citizens’ views into account while allowing scientists to lay down the rules may merely provoke mistrust of official policy processes.
  • Governance arrangements for overseeing innovation processes, and particularly the testing and introduction of new, potentially risky, technologies, are very poorly developed, particularly in the global south. Recourse to standardised, technical approaches, based on risk management, have been found wanting. An inclusive, rights-based approach is a promising alternative. Open, democratic and deliberative approaches must to be central to governing technologies, especially if poverty reduction and environmental sustainability are key aims.
  • Citizen action and mobilisation around GM crops has been an important route to recasting the debate in new ways. While much of the discussion has got stuck in a narrow pro or anti-GM frame, wider concerns about the role of agribusiness, the corporate control of agriculture and the future of food and farming have been raised.
  • Political cultures – of protest, participation and policymaking – differ dramatically across regions and countries. The role of the law and courts, the influence of scientific expertise and the possibilities of mobilisation vary dramatically. This has major implications for how disputes are tackled and what policy instruments are used. Assuming that one style of policymaking is the correct one is inappropriate, and results in major misunderstandings and potential conflicts.

Theme 4 Archive

General

Arora, S., Van Dyck, B., Argumedo, A., and Wakeford, T. (2019) Choreographed consensus: The stifling of dissent at CRISPRCon 2019, STEPS Blog.

Glover, D. (2015) Public participation, accountability and the stewardship of transgenic crops, in Macnaghten, P. and Carro-Ripalda, S. (eds.) Governing Agricultural Sustainability: Global lessons from GM crops. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 167-173.

Macnaghten, P., and Carro Ripalda, S. (2015) Governing Agricultural Sustainability: Global lessons from GM crops, Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Ely, A. (2014) GM Nation or GM Planet? How to involve citizens in decisions about transgenic crops, STEPS Blog.

Kashani, E. S., and Millstone, E. (2013) Contested framings and policy controversies: analysing biosafety policy making in Iran, Science and Public Policy, Vol. 40, No. 5, 616-627.

Stirling, A. (2012) Opening Up the Politics of Knowledge and Power in Bioscience, PLoS Biol.

Ely, A., Stirling, A., Dreyer, M., Renn, O., Vos, E., & Wendler, F. (2009) The need for change, in Dreyer, M., and Renn, O. (eds.) Food Safety Governance: Integrating Science, Precaution and Public Involvement, Berlin, DE: Springer.

Ely, A., Stirling, A., Dreyer, M., Renn, O., Vos, E., & Wendler, F. (2009) Overview of general framework, in Dreyer, M., and Renn, O. (eds.) Food Safety Governance: Integrating Science, Precaution and Public Involvement, Berlin, DE: Springer.

Ely, A., Stirling, A., Vos, E., & Wendler, F. (2009) The process of framing, in Dreyer, M., and Renn, O. (eds.) Food Safety Governance: Integrating Science, Precaution and Public Involvement, Berlin, DE: Springer.

Ely, A., and Stirling, A. (2009) The process of assessment, in Dreyer, M., and Renn, O. (eds.) Food Safety Governance: Integrating Science, Precaution and Public Involvement, Berlin, DE: Springer.

Scoones, I. (2008) Mobilising against GM crops in India, South Africa and Brazil, Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 8 No. 2-3, 315–344.

Burgess, J., Stirling, A., Clark, J., Davies, G., Eames, M., Staley, K., & Williamson, S. (2007) Deliberative mapping: a novel analytic-deliberative methodology to support contested science-policy decisions, Public Understanding of Science, Vol. 16, No. 3, 299-322.

Glover, D. (2007) Farmer participation in private sector agricultural extension, IDS Bulletin, Vol. 38, No. 5, 61-73.

Millstone, E. (2007) Can food safety policy-making be both scientifically and democratically legitimated? If so, how?, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Vol. 20, 483-508.

Stirling, A. (2007) Deliberate futures: precaution and progress in social choice of sustainable technology, Sustainable Development, Vol. 15, No. 5, 286–295.

Scoones, I., and Leach, M. (2006) The Slow Race – Making Technology Work for the Poor, London, UK: Demos.

Stirling, A. (2006) Precaution, foresight and sustainability: reflection and reflexivity in the governance of science and technology, in Voss, J., Bauknecht, D., and Kemp, R. (eds.) Reflexive Governance for Sustainable Development, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Scoones, I. (2005) Contentious Politics, Contentious Knowledges: Mobilising Against GM Crops in India, Brazil and South Africa, IDS Working Paper 256, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Stirling, A., and Mayer, S. (2004) Confronting Risk with Precaution: A Multi-Criteria Mapping of Genetically Modified Crops, in Getzner, M., Spash, C. L., and Stagl, S. (eds.) Alternatives for Environmental Valuation, Routledge.

Scoones, I. (2004) Debating GM crops, Insights 52.

Glover et al. (2003) Public participation and the Biosafety Protocol: a review for UNEP-GEF and DFID, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Keeley, J. (2003) Democratising biotechnology: an overview, Democratising Biotechnology: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries Briefing Series, Briefing 1, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Millstone, E. (2003) The EU-US Dispute over the introduction of agricultural biotechnology: an analysis and prognosis, Soziale Technik, Vol. 4, 19-20.

Millstone, E., and van Zwanenberg, P. (2003) Food and Agricultural Biotechnology Policy: How Much Autonomy Can Developing Countries Exercise?, Development Policy Review, Vol. 21, No. 5, 655-667.

Mohamed-Katerere, J. (2003) From risks to rights: challenges for biotechnology policy, Democratising Biotechnology: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries Briefing Series, Briefing 12, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Newell, P. (2003) Globalisation and the governance of biotechnology, Global Environmental Politics, Vol. 3, No. 2, 56-72.

Thompson, J., and Scoones, I. (2003) PLA Notes 46 – Special issue on Participatory processes for policy change, Participatory Learning and Action, London, UK: IIED.

Wakeford, T., and Pimbert, M. (2003) Power-reversals in biotechnology: experiments in democratisation, Democratising Biotechnology: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries Briefing Series, Briefing 13, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Wakeford, T. (2002) Citizens juries: a radical alternative for social research, Social Research Update, Vol. 37, Surrey, UK: University of Surrey.

Pimbert, M., and Wakeford, T. (2001), PLA Notes 40 – Special Issue on Deliberative democracy and citizen empowerment, Participatory Learning and Action, London, UK: IIED, The Commonwealth Foundation, ActionAid, DFID and SIDA.

Stirling, A. (2001) PLA Notes 40 – Inclusive deliberation and scientific expertise: precaution, diversity and transparency in the governance of risk, London, UK: IIED, The Commonwealth Foundation, ActionAid, DFID and SIDA.

Adam, B., Berkhout, F., Dyson, T., and Grove-White, R. (1999) The Politics of GM Food: Risk, Science &Public Trust, ESRC Global Environmental Change Programme, Special Briefing No. 5.

Millstone, E., and Dixon, B. (1992) Our Genetic Future: the science and ethics of genetic technology, The British Medical Association, Oxford University Press.

Africa

Rusike, E. (2005) Exploring food and farming futures in Zimbabwe: A citizens’ jury and scenario workshop experiment, in Leach, M., Scoones, I., and Wynne, B. (eds.) Science and Citizens: Globalization and the Challenge of Engagement, London, UK: Zed Books, 249-255.

Scoones, I. (2005) Governing technology development: challenges for agricultural research in Africa IDS Bulletin, Vol. 36 No. 2, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Mohamed-Katerere, J. (2003) Risk and rights: challenging biotechnology policy in Zimbabwe, IDS Working Paper 204, Biotechnology Policy Series 10, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Rusike, E. (2003) Izwi neTarisiro – Zimbabwe’s Citizens Jury, Seedling. 

Saruchera, M., and Matsungo, O. (2003) Understanding Local Perspectives: Participation of Resource Poor Farmers in Biotechnology: The Case of Wedza District of Zimbabwe, Biotechnology and the Policy Process in Developing Countries Project, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Mohamed-Katerere, J. (2001) Biotechnology and the policy process: Zimbabwe, Biotechnology and the Policy Process in Developing Countries Project, Brighton, UK: IDS.

China

Ely, A. (2015) Lessons from China’s GM Controversy, in Macnaghten, P., and Carro-Ripalda. S. (eds.) Governing Agricultural Sustainability: Global lessons from GM crops. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 161-166.

Geall, S. (2014) GM in China: ‘Paranoia’ and public opinion, STEPS Blog.

Newell, P. (2008) Lost in Translation? Domesticating Global Policy on GMOs: Comparing India and China, Global Society, Vol. 22, No. 1, 115-136.

Keeley, J. (2006) Balancing Technological Innovation and Environmental Regulation: an analysis of Chinese agricultural biotechnology governanceEnvironmental Politics, Vol. 15, No. 2, 293–309.

Keeley, J. (2003) A biotech developmental state? The Chinese experience, Democratising Biotechnology: Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries Briefing Series, Briefing 11, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Keeley, J. (2003) The biotech developmental state? Investigating the Chinese gene revolution, IDS Working Paper 207, Biotechnology Policy Series 6, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Newell, P. (2003) Domesticating global policy on GMOs: comparing China and India, IDS Working Paper 206, Biotechnology Policy Series 12, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Huang, J., Wang, Q., and Keeley, J. (2001) Agricultural biotechnology policy processes in China, Biotechnology and the policy process in developing countries Project, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Europe

Lydgate, E., Anthony, C., and Millstone, E. (2019) Brexit food safety legislation and potential implications for UK trade: the devil in the details, Working Paper, UK Trade Policy Observatory: Brighton, UK.

STEPS Centre. (2015) Some nice recommendations, shame about the spin, STEPS Blog.

Stirling, A (2013) Why all the fuss about GM food? Other innovations are available, The Guardian.

Ely, A. (2009) Implementation of the General Framework: Genetically Modified (Cry1Ab) Maize Case Study, in Dreyer, M., and Renn, O. (eds.) Food Safety Governance: Integrating Science, Precaution and Public Involvement, Berlin, DE: Springer.

India

Oxley, N. (2017) GM mustard in India: Are important questions not being asked?, STEPS Blog.

Newell, P. (2008) Lost in Translation? Domesticating Global Policy on GMOs: Comparing India and China, Global Society, Vol. 22 No. 1, 15-136.

Scoones, I. (2007) Biotechnology in Bangalore: the politics of innovation, ID21 Insights, Vol. 68.

Scoones, I. (2007) The contested politics of biotechnology: biotech in Bangalore, Science and Public Policy, Vol. 34, 261-271.

Scoones, I. (2006) Science, Agriculture and the Politics of Policy: the case of biotechnology in India, Delhi, IN: Orient Longman.

Newell, P. (2003) Domesticating global policy on GMOs: comparing China and India, IDS Working Paper 206, Biotechnology Policy Series 12, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Pimbert, M., and Wakeford, T. (2003) Prajateerpu, power and knowledge: The politics of participatory action research in development Part 1 – Context, process and safeguards, Action Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, 185-207.

Scoones, I. (2003) Making policy in the ‘New Economy’: the case of Karnataka’s biotechnology policy, IDS Working Paper 196, Biotechnology Policy Series 13, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Seshia, S., and Scoones, I. (2003) Tracing policy connections: the politics of knowledge in the Green Revolution and biotechnology eras in India, IDS Working Paper 188, Biotechnology Policy Series 21, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Visvanathan, S., and Parmar, C. (2003) Reconstructing policy narratives: the Green Revolution story, Biotechnology Policy Series 16, Brighton, UK: IDS.

Pimbert, M., and Wakeford, T. (2002) Prajateerpu: A Citizens Jury / Scenario Workshop on Food and Farming Futures in Andhra Pradesh, India, London, UK: IIED.

Pimbert, M., and Wakeford, T. (2002) Prajateerpu: Food and Farming Futures for Andhra Pradesh: A Citizens’ Jury / Scenario Workshop, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 27, 2778-2787.

Visvanathan, S., and Parmar, C. (2002) A Biotechnology Story: notes from India, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 27, 2714-2724.

Pimbert, M., Wakeford, T., and Satheesh, P. V. (2001) Citizens’ juries on GMOs and farming futures in India, LEISA Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 4, 27-30.

Latin America

Newell, P. (2009) Bio-hegemony: The Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology in Argentina, Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 41, No. 1, 27-57.

Newell, P. (2009) Technology, Food, Power: Governing GMOs in Argentina, in Clapp, J., and Fuchs, D. (eds) Agro-Food Corporations, Global Governance, and Sustainability, Cambridge, USA: MIT Press.

Newell, P. (2008) Trade and biotechnology in Latin America: Democratization, Contestation and the Politics of Mobilization, Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 8, No. 2-3, 345-376.

Newell, P. (2008) Trade and biotechnology in Latin America: Democratization, Contestation and the Politics of Mobilization, in Borras, S. M., Edelman, M., and Kay, C. (eds.) Transnational Agrarian Movements Confronting Globalization, Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 177-209.


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