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The Role and Limitations of Technocratic, Deliberative and Regulatory Approaches in Biotechnology Governance”

Presented by Dr. Ruth Mampuys (The Netherlands)

Biotechnology is playing an increasing and significant role in our lives, our food and our environment.  At the same time, the societal acceptance of this technology varies widely and a broad societal consensus does not seem feasible. This means decisions have to be taken on a collective (governmental) level to ensure safe applications for society and to facilitate a certain individual level of freedom of choice. Ideally, both are achieved at the same time, but decisions also have to be made in case of conflict. For example, when individual choices cannot be separated from collective choices, or when international developments confront society with biotechnological applications despite restrictive national policies on the topic. Eventually, this too is a task for policy makers and politicians. They base their decisions on a broad spectrum of information that is already generated elsewhere in the field of governance (bottom-up), such as scientific data, risk assessments and public opinion. Top down, the space for policy makers and politicians to operate within is limited by the existing regulatory framework. In Europe, decision-making about GMOs has become a laborious process in which a wide variety of reasons and legal measures are used to delay or halt authorisations and regulatory decisions (e.g. about gene editing and other new techniques). The presentation discusses the contributions and limitations of science, participatory activities and regulatory frameworks in decision-making about biotechnology and highlights the essential role of politics.


Ruth is an experienced scientific secretary with a history of working in the biotechnology & policy field in the European Union. She is skilled in scientific & policy writing, bioethics, environmental risk assessment and science communication. Ruth has a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society (PSTS). Since 2007 Ruth has been working at the Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM).  COGEM is an independent scientific advisory body of the Dutch government that advises on the risks of GMOs to human health and the environment, and informs the relevant ministries of ethical and societal issues linked to genetic modification. During her career at COGEM, Ruth has written policy reports about a broad variety of topics related to GMOs, ranging from sustainability of GM crops, GMOs and art, socio-economic aspects of GM crops, ethical and legal aspects of human germline modification and international differences in GMO legislation. She has just finished her thesis to earn a PhD degree at the Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam. Her research focused on political decision-making on controversial technologies such as biotechnology.

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