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Engineered debates and emergent biosafety : the social controversy and regulatory challenges confronting GE crops in India Freeman, Julia


This dissertation investigates the social controversy and regulatory challenges presented by genetically engineered (GE) crops in India. Current research insufficiently addresses risk controversies in the developing world, nor provides adequate consideration of GE biosafety as an important socio-political concept as well as a technical one. The study addresses these gaps by mapping the GE controversy in India, its insertion into health and safety decision-making, and the ways in which divergent stakeholders have established positions in these risk debates. Secondly, it assesses the challenges facing the biosafety regulatory regime in India, particularly as a country undergoing a "risk transition," whereby a growing middle class and marginal farmers are pitted against one another in surprising ways. The data for this study are drawn from three main sources using a case study methodology. Firstly, interviews with: farmers, civil society groups, and regulators. Secondly, an analysis of key policy and legal documents that serve as the foundation of India's regulatory regime. And finally, an analysis of the literature and materials that help make up the "public debate" including NGO publications, website postings, films, and newspaper articles covering aspects of the controversy from key Indian English language sources. Rooted in the social studies of risk, the dissertation also draws from literatures on comparative policy analysis, narrative theory in social science, political ecology, and science and technology studies. India is undergoing a "risk transition", and the country's response to GE agriculture can be expected to differ from what has been more thoroughly mapped in other parts of the world. Moreover, biosafety is the central organizing principle of agricultural biotechnology regulation in India, and its ongoing negotiated quality has spurred both regulatory innovation and larger governance challenges. India has a diverse, largely agrarian population and this study finds that developing new ways to understand how the GE regulatory regime is changed by public debate is crucial, as are meaningful ways to solicit and incorporate public participation in a complex democracy. Strategies to address public perspectives must extend beyond organized civil society groups to include other citizens, especially marginal producers with much at stake in the GE debates.

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