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Globalisation and transboundary risk regulation: pesticides and genetically modified crops

Globalisation of food production systems and accompanying pressures for trade liberalisation are raising new issues for risk regulation and also placing greater demands on risk regulatory systems. Transboundary food-related risks are categorised here as 'traded' risks, subdivided into those which are product-based and those which are production system based. The international systems for regulating the risks of pesticide residues in food and of GM crops are summarised and examples are given of how the risks are monitored and evaluated. For GM crops and pesticides, although in different proportions, concerns focus on risks inherent in food products themselves and in the food production systems of which they form components. Different public motivations (self-interest versus fundamental values) underlie the expressions of concern and different approaches are needed for resolution and public reassurance in each case.

We propose an approach which assigns legitimate and clearly specified roles to the two approaches, product based and production system based, which would elevate the debate about GM crops to a higher systemic level where it may have a greater chance of being resolved.