Accountability and Risk Governance: A Scenario-informed Reflection on European Regulation of GMOs

L. Drott*, L. Jochum, F. Lange, I. Skierka, J. Vach, M.B.A. van Asselt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Regulating risks in the face of scientific uncertainty poses a particular challenge to policy-makers. Such problems are amplified when decisions are taken in a multi-level framework of supranational governance. The genetically modified organism (GMO) regulation in the European Union constitutes an especially salient issue of risk governance in a multi-lateral arena, as the topic is politically highly visible and decision-making is slow and contested. Furthermore, as authority is dispersed among multiple actors, European risk governance is in need of adequate mechanisms ensuring that decision-makers justify and account for their behavior. While legitimacy aspects of GMO governance have widely been examined, accountability relations within the field of GMO risk governance have hitherto only weakly been explored. Hence, this paper analyzes the question of who can be held accountable under the complex system of supranational risk governance. This paper claims that mere adherence by actors to the regulatory procedures during the decision-making process does not necessarily imply that overall accountability can be secured, resulting in organized irresponsibility'. Although certain piecemeal accountability may exist, establishing overall accountability is complicated, precisely as a result of the complex system of interwoven rules.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1140
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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