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Regulating GMOs in India: pragmatism, politics, representation, and risk

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posted on 2023-06-07, 16:20 authored by Rana Janak Ghose
At the core of any effort by a nation state to regulate new technologies for public release is an implicit navigation of uncertainty. The case of Bt cotton in India presents a very timely and pragmatic example of how nation states grapple with uncertainty in a regulatory context. While much attention has been given to how government actors form regulation, far less is given to how actors outside of the government spheres act as catalysts for regulatory reform. In practice, it is often these parties that drive regulation as a process. The question is how. This paper outlines the findings of fieldwork conducted in India between March 2007 and July 2009 in addressing this central question: what does regulation really mean in a context where new technologies burdened with uncertain consequences are introduced? How do preferences, decisions, and regulatory norms adapt to this introduction based on the interactions of a multitude of parties acting on multiple framings of understanding what risk means? The conclusion is that regulation – in the context of Bt cotton in India - is far from a set of government policies derived from scientific measures of risk assessment. Civil society, firms, and farmers themselves all have tremendous influence on how a nation state navigates uncertainty in a regulatory context. It is a process forged on risk interfaces, where constructions of risk both complement and oppose one another. The actors involved enter these spaces, invited or otherwise. What the government may have initially imagined as ‘regulation’ is subject to multiple technical, economic, and political framings of risk from each actor. As a result, regulation is a coevolutionary, co-constructed process. This process of negotiating these spaces is what regulation really means.


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