Governance of agricultural biotechnologies faces limitations, challenges and opportunities. From epistemological questions and empirical case-studies, this session explores what a scientifically and socially more robust governance approaches would comprise.
Governance of agricultural biotechnologies is typically limited to regulatory frameworks that assess health and environmental risks. A broader range of concerns about these technologies is not addressed. Instead attention focuses only on the adequacy or otherwise of the risk scientific knowledge, against a barrage of assertions that no more risk research is necessary, since these technologies have been proven safe. Yet for multiple complex reasons, agricultural biotechnologies remain significantly controversial. There is an urgent need for understanding what could help to design and enact improved forms of governance to address prevailing limitations, and respond to environmental, economic and social/ethical sustainability challenges. These discussions are particularly timely as policy-makers and regulators globally are evaluating the adequacy of existing regulatory frameworks in light of new and evolving agricultural genomic tools and products. The concept of responsible research and innovation may be a useful tool to help policy-makers 'open up' traditionally expert domains of research, innovation and risk assessment. In particular, it offers a framework for including a broader range of voices (e.g. other alternative experts disciplines, the public and stakeholders) in shaping agricultural biotechnology innovation trajectories and defining the unresolved societal challenges. This closed session will draw on epistemological reflections and, based on case studies from different countries, provide critical discussion about what responsible governance of agricultural biotechnology might entail. Special attention will be given to the analysis of underlying values and assumptions, and a broader range of problem-definitions, knowledge and perspectives.