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Les Américains ont-ils accepté les OGM ?: Analyse comparée de la construction des OGM comme problème public en France et aux Etats-Unis

Joly, P-B. & Marris, C. (2003). Les Américains ont-ils accepté les OGM ?: Analyse comparée de la construction des OGM comme problème public en France et aux Etats-Unis. Review of Agricultural and Environmental Studies, formerly Cahiers d’Economie et Sociologie Rurales, pp. 12-45.


How can one explain that the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in food and agriculture poses a problem in France, where they are hardly used, yet seems to be taken for granted in the US, where their use is widespread ? Many observers see this as a sign that American consumers have accepted transgenic foods, due to a different attitude to risks, food and nature. The present article rejects that explanation. It presents a comparative analysis of the trajectory of GMOs as a public problem in France and the US, showing that very similar arguments were put forward by opponents to GMOs on both sides of the Atlantic, and that conflicts between opponents and defenders have focussed on the same issues : (i) food labeling ; (ii) the link between the choice of a technique (GMOs) and that of an economic system (intensive agriculture, capitalism) ; and (iii) the appropriate framework for evaluating risks. But whereas in France (and more generally in Europe), opponents’ arguments crystallized during specific key controversies, and contributed towards the definition of the cognitive and normative dimensions of GMOs as a public problem, this did not occur in the US. Three factors seem to explain this difference : (i) very different regulatory choices made in the late 1980s (based on processes in Europe and on products in the US) ; (ii) the fact that the usefulness of transgenic plants is perceived negatively in France whereas their association with the intensive export agriculture project is perceived positively in the US ; and (iii) the growing influence of a broader, “constructive” framework for risk analysis in Europe, whereas in the US regulatory authorities continue to base their legitimacy on the ideology of “sound science”

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright the authors 2003.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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