The present debate in many European Union (EU) member states on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) highlights the influence that social groups can exert over technology. Social actors which were not directly involved in the development of a technology but affected by it can successfully influence that technology`s trajectory.

The article analyzes the influence which social actors not directly involved in regulation or product authorization exerted on the development and adoption of GMOs in Spain, one of the EU member states. Especially in the area of GMO regulation, non governmental organizations reached decisive influence, forcing the regulators to radically change the basic philosophy for regulation as well as adopting the role of a nexus between civil society and the biotechnology industry. The results obtained from the analysis highlight the importance of trust in the decision makers as well as the entire decision making process.

The results which will be presented in this paper are based on an analysis of pertinent documents as well as research interviews with key actors related to the social conflict about genetically modified (GM) crops and foods in Spain. Among them were the members of the respective regulatory bodies, especially from the Spanish National Biosafety Commission, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations, the biotechnology and agro-food industry, the scientific community and trade unions.

However, an easy solution to the problem of decision making appears difficult, since the actors` arguments stem from their underlying visions about technology and its place in current society. Despite those fundamental limitations, more participatory decision making processes would allow for improved communication and understanding between actors. That way, preferences and values of different social groups could be better taken into account and help steer policy and product development towards socially accepted goals.

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Genetic engineering and social debate

Oliver Todt   CSIC

The present debate in many European Union (EU) member states on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) highlights the influence that social groups can exert over technology. Social actors which were not directly involved in the development of a technology but affected by it can successfully influence that technology`s trajectory.

The article analyzes the influence which social actors not directly involved in regulation or product authorization exerted on the development and adoption of GMOs in Spain, one of the EU member states. Especially in the area of GMO regulation, non governmental organizations reached decisive influence, forcing the regulators to radically change the basic philosophy for regulation as well as adopting the role of a nexus between civil society and the biotechnology industry. The results obtained from the analysis highlight the importance of trust in the decision makers as well as the entire decision making process.

The results which will be presented in this paper are based on an analysis of pertinent documents as well as research interviews with key actors related to the social conflict about genetically modified (GM) crops and foods in Spain. Among them were the members of the respective regulatory bodies, especially from the Spanish National Biosafety Commission, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations, the biotechnology and agro-food industry, the scientific community and trade unions.

However, an easy solution to the problem of decision making appears difficult, since the actors` arguments stem from their underlying visions about technology and its place in current society. Despite those fundamental limitations, more participatory decision making processes would allow for improved communication and understanding between actors. That way, preferences and values of different social groups could be better taken into account and help steer policy and product development towards socially accepted goals.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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