Environ. Biosafety Res.
Volume 2, Number 3, July-September 2003
|Page(s)||161 - 171|
|Published online||15 November 2003|
Making the EU “Risk Window” transparent: The normative foundations of the environmental risk assessment of GMOs
Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Department of Education,
Philosophy and Rhetoric, University of Copenhagen, Njalsgade 80, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark
2 Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Danish Forest and Landscape Research Institute, Hørsholm Kongevej 11, 2970 Hørsholm, Denmark
3 Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Grønnegaardsvej 8, 1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
4 Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Plant Environment Interactions, Plant Research Department, RISØ National Laboratory, Building 309, Frederiksborgvej 399, PO Box 49, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
5 Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, Environment and Resources, Technical University of Denmark, Bygningstorvet, Building 115, 2800 Lyngby, Denmark
Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Europe, there seems to be widespread, morally based scepticism about the use of GMOs in food production. In response to this scepticism, the revised EU directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms stresses the importance of respecting ethical principles recognized in the Member States. However, the directive fails to reflect the critical role of value judgements in scientific risk assessment and any subsequent approval procedure. In this paper we argue that it is important to make all ethically relevant assumptions involved in the approval procedure transparent and thus available for public scrutiny. Mapping the value judgements that are made in an environmental risk assessment and approval procedure, we describe the political liberal nature of the EU legislation. We then look more closely at the prescriptions for environmental risk assessment and approval of GMOs outlined in the directive. An environmental risk assessment views the world through a “risk window” that only makes visible that which has been predefined as a relevant risk. The importance of the value judgements that define the risk window consists in limiting the information the risk assessment can provide. In the penultimate section of the paper, the significance of the risk window is demonstrated through a case study of the approval of glyphosate resistant fodder beets (Beta vulgaris L. ssp. vulgaris) in Denmark.
Key words: ethics / EU legislation / familiarity / political liberalism / transparency / value judgements / risk window
© ISBR, EDP Sciences, 2003