The Institutionalisation of GMOs: Institutional Dynamics in the GM regulatory debate in the UK, 1986-1993
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Wish to place some paper from my work before it becomes publicly available.
This thesis analyses the process of institutionalisation of the concept of genetically modified organism (GMO) in the UK between 1986-1993. The existing accounts of the GM debate have focussed on either the 1970s or the 1990s. Very little, however, has been said about the 1980s, long before that of GMOs became a popular issue. Through a detailed examination of the PROSAMO initiative – a series of experiments aimed at determining the environmental impact of GMOs with a regulatory purpose in mind – this thesis have been able to explore the important but rather neglected role of the UK dominant institutions in the historical development of the debate over the release of GMOs into the environment. In analysing the way ‘GMO’ institutionalised between the late 1980s and early 1990s, this thesis shows that the concepts of risk and uncertainty – which have dominated the GM debate – need to be conceived as collective constructs that are used strategically in order to pursue various objectives related to the context in which people using them operate. It is also argued that the legitimate use of these concepts is bound to the credibility and the authority of science. These considerations have stimulated some reflections on the nature and role of regulation in the GM debate. In particular, it is argued that the move from a voluntary system of controls to a statutory one represents a move from an epistemic community approach to policy-making to a logic of bureaucratic politics, in which the literal interpretation of rules became a solution to political disagreement. As rule following became a political requirement, GMOs became a bureaucratic issue and scientists turned into bureaucrats. Within these changes, the role of scientific expertise in the definition of GMOs decreased. From this point of view, the way ‘genetic modification’ and GMO institutionalised gave rise to new practices and behaviours that turned around GMO as a controversial but nevertheless stable category.
University of Exeter
PhD in Genomics in Society