The Limits of Regulatory Science in Transnational Governance of Transgenic Plant Agriculture and Food Systems

Taiwo Oriola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current national and transnational regulatory and policy framework for transgenic plantagriculture and food is arguably largely defined by science. Notably, transgenic plantagriculture policy deference to science is ostensibly premised on the general perception thatscience is neutral, objective, reliable, and agnostic. This is exemplified by cases ranging from Alliance for Bio-integrity v Donna Shalala, European Communities: Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products, to European Commission v Republic ofPoland , in which conscientious, ethical, religious, and cultural oppositional grounds totransgenic plant agriculture and food were trumped by scientific imperatives. However, thelack of unanimity of views amongst scientists on the degree of susceptibility of transgenicplant food to new toxins and allergens; the continuing scientific uncertainties on theproprieties and full ramifications of transgenic plant agriculture and food respectively for theenvironment and public health; and the seeming inevitability ofin situ gene flow andadventitious commingling of transgenic and non-transgenic plant genes; could arguablyundermine the presumed reliability, neutrality, objectivity, and agnosticism of the“science” that underpins the regulatory and policy framework for transgenic plant technologygovernance, and concomitantly cast doubts on the propriety of the current science-centricregulatory framework for transgenic plant agricultural technology. Drawing on relevant caselaw and selected case studies, this essay explores the extent to which science is ultimatelyreliable, objective, agnostic, or neutral in its pivotal role as the fulcrum anchoring theregulatory and governance systems for transgenic plant agriculture and food systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-883
JournalNorth Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Mar 2014


  • Transgenic plant agriculture
  • transgenic plant foods
  • substantial equivalence
  • conventional agriculture
  • regulatory science
  • research science
  • evolutionary science
  • exact science
  • normative science
  • science neutrality
  • science agnosticism
  • science determinism
  • safety science


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