Governing Agricultural Biotechnologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany: A Trans-decadal Study of Regulatory Cultures

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  • Adrian Ely
  • Beate Friedrich
  • Dominic Glover
  • Klara Fischer
  • Glenn Davis Stone
  • Ann Kingiri
  • Matthew A. Schnurr

Comparative studies of agricultural biotechnology regulation have highlighted differences in the roles that science and politics play in decision-making. Drawing on documentary and interview evidence in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, we consider how the “regulatory cultures” that guided national responses to earlier generations of agricultural biotechnology have developed, alongside the emergence of genome editing in food crops. We find that aspects of the “product-based” regulatory approach have largely been maintained in US biosafety frameworks and that the British and German approaches have at different stages combined “process-based” and “programmatic” elements that address the scientific and sociopolitical novelty of genome editing to varying degrees. We seek to explain these patterns of stability and change by exploring how changing opportunity structures in each jurisdiction have enabled or constrained public reasoning around emerging agricultural biotechnologies. By showing how opportunity structures and regulatory cultures interact over the long-term, we provide insights that help us to interpret current and evolving dynamics in the governance of genome editing and the longer-term development of agricultural biotechnology.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1292-1328
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 11.2023

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Gene Editing in Agriculture
Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge the GEAP3 Network - a Jean Monnet Network funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union. We wish to thank the guest editors Carmen Bain, Theresa Selfa and Christopher Cummings, three anonymous referees, and STHV editors Edward Hackett and Tim Neale for their advice on the article. Lastly, thanks to Alanna Taylor for GEAP3 administrative and editorial support. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Erasmus+ Program Jean Monnet Network: Genome Editing and Agricultural Policy, Practice and Public Perceptions (611150-EPP-1-2019-1-CA-EPPJMO-NETWORK).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

    Research areas

  • biotechnology, genetic modification, genome editing, GMO, governance, policy, regulation
  • Biology