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Democratising Technology Choices? European Public Participation in Agbiotech Assessments

Les Levidow

Report/paper, 24 pages

The agricultural biotechnology (agbiotech) sector has faced extraordinary public protest in Europe. In anticipating or responding to public controversy, many state bodies have sponsored formal participatory exercises in technology assessment (TA). These participatory TA exercises have had diverse, overlapping, or even contradictory aims: democratizing technology, educating the public, countering “extreme” views, gauging public attitudes, guiding institutional reforms, and/or managing societal conflicts. This paper examines four national case studies (from Denmark, Germany, France and the UK) of participatory TAs of “agbiotech” to explore:
• How and why state bodies sponsored participatory TA of agbiotech
• The various aims in designing, managing and using such exercises
• Why they matter for efforts to democratise choices of technology designs and priorities
• How we can democratise technology choices or at least hold governments accountable for their technology policies.

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