The US’ Food and Drug Administration, Normativity of Risk Assessment, GMOs, and American Democracy


DOI: 10.1007/s10806-008-9133-6

Cite this article as:
Meghani, Z. J Agric Environ Ethics (2009) 22: 125. doi:10.1007/s10806-008-9133-6


The process of risk assessment of biotechnologies, such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), has normative dimensions. However, the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems committed to the idea that such evaluations are objective. This essay makes the case that the agency’s regulatory approach should be changed such that the public is involved in deciding any ethical or social questions that might arise during risk assessment of GMOs. It is argued that, in the US, neither aggregative nor deliberative (representative) democracy ought to be used to make such determinations. Instead, participatory (deliberative) democracy should be the means by which members of the polity decide which normative concerns ought to underlie FDA’s assessment of GMOs. This paper uses a hypothetical case involving a new GM seed to make that argument.


Agrifood biotechnologies Democracy Genetically modified organisms Normative Objectivity Risk assessment Scientific experts 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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