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Democratizing Agri-Biotechnology? European Public Participation in Agbiotech Assessment

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Anticipating or responding to European public concerns over agbiotech, state bodies have sponsored participatory exercises in technology assessment (TA). Some participants have sought to open up technological decisions vis-à-vis alternative futures and normative choices, but such efforts have been marginalized; the trajectory of biotechnological innovation has been protected from challenge. Questions about agbiotech as control have been displaced and channeled into regulatory issues and control measures. To some extent, participatory TA exercises have helped to hold governments accountable for regulatory criteria, but not for innovation choices. These participatory TA exercises generally internalize assumptions about agbiotech as societal progress. Despite aspirations to democratize technological choices, the exercises tend to biotechnologise democracy. The prospects for democratization depend upon wider, autonomous forms of participation – neither sponsored nor welcomed by state bodies.

Affiliations: 1: Development Policy and Practice, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

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