Frame dynamics and stakeholders in risk governance

Detta är en avhandling från Lund University (Media-Tryck)

Sammanfattning: The EU governance of food safety and GM food and feed has gone through significant changes since the BSE crisis and food scares during the 1990s. This work focuses on one particular new feature; the role of stakeholders representing the food chain: biotech associations, farmer organizations, food and feed processors, consumer organizations and environmental NGOs. These stakeholders are not merely lobbyists exerting influence on EU institutions; they are knowledge producers with a certain expertise who participate within the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO) in order to improve risk assessment as well as risk management. This study uses an interpretive approach to governance and expertise. Governance occurs in a larger system of policy discourses and architectures of meaning through which – in turn – policy options achieve meaning, are expressed, clash and compete with each other. Governance is constantly negotiated and framed, and its boundaries drawn by the various institutions and actors involved. This thesis analyses frames that are involved in the food safety governance of GMOs in the EU. Frames are understood as ideas, structures of argumentation, and the underlying rationality behind governance. Particular emphasis is placed on deliberative rationality, stakeholder participation, and how stakeholders compete to influence policy and establish themselves as legitimate experts by framing activities within a policy debate. Empirically, this thesis draws on GMO issues such as cultivation, the approval process and Environmental Risk Assessment Guidance. The policy dispute mainly explored is asynchronous authorization and zero tolerance policy. This debate contains a wide range of arguments that relate to the global trade of GMOs, feed imports, socio-economic risks, environmental contamination and consumer protection. The thesis is based on extensive research of documentary sources from policymakers and stakeholders, interviews with elite actors in Brussels and Sweden, as well as observations in the field. My conclusion is that a new governance rationality has taken hold in DG SANCO and EFSA; a deliberative rationality by which policymakers actively and innovatively engage with stakeholders and encourage them to contribute with knowledge for policy advice, risk assessment, management and process development. Yet this rationality is geared towards participation and appears in the shadow of hierarchy, meaning that participatory exercises are facilitated and firmly controlled by the policymakers themselves. It is clear that administrative rationality remains in a dominant position: GMOs are governed by ‘hard law’ in a multi-level political system that subordinates economic rationality, thereby hindering GMO market expansion in the EU. I also conclude that intertextual spinning and intertextual proximity in frames are particular important to influence policy outcomes. These enable stakeholders to become legitimate experts and influence policy response and legislative change. This is a process where data is shared, processed and spinned between public and private actors to engender its status as legitimate expertise, not interest-based claims. By such means was the problem definition in the debate on asynchronous authorization and zero tolerance policy reframed from safety to security. Overall, this work thus furthers the understanding about frames as an agenda-setting tool, and framing as influence. Even though this thesis addresses the GMO post-implementation phase, it shows that framing conflicts in the EU food safety domain are still fierce. Power struggles are ongoing, and the last boundary is far from being drawn.