Public participation: Democratic ideal or pragmatic tool? The cases of GM foods and functional foods

Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Public Understanding of Science (Impact Factor: 1.87). 03/2011; 20(2):163-78. DOI: 10.1177/0963662509336713
Source: PubMed


Over recent decades, public participation initiatives have been employed across Europe often with a focus on science and technology issues. In the area of new food technologies most participation initiatives have centered on genetically modified foods. By contrast, in the area of functional foods--where significant EU legislation was recently passed--we have seen no initiatives towards public inclusion. This applies also for Denmark, the country which is the focus of this article. Based on an interview study with members of the Danish parliament the article examines why such considerable differences exist between initiatives to involve the public, and it challenges the role that public participation plays in Danish politics. The main claim made in the article is that although politicians argue for the value and relevance of public participation their willingness to initiate participatory processes is overruled by their concern with playing by the rules of the political game.

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