Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 967–989 | Cite as

Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Food and Neoliberalism: An Argument for Democratizing the Regulatory Review Protocol of the Food and Drug Administration

  • Zahra Meghani


The primary responsibility of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to protect public health by ensuring the safety of the food supply. To that end, it sometimes conducts risk assessments of novel food products, such as genetically modified (GM) food. The FDA describes its regulatory review of GM food (of both the plant and the animal variety) as a purely scientific activity, untainted by any normative considerations. This paper provides evidence that the regulatory agency is not justified in making that claim. It is argued that the FDA’s policy stance on GM food is shaped by neoliberal considerations. The agency’s review of a genetically engineered animal, the AquAdvantage salmon, is used as a case study to track the influence of neoliberalism on its regulatory review protocol. After that, an epistemic argument justifying public engagement in the risk assessment of new GM food is outlined. It is because risk evaluations involve normative judgments, in a democracy, layperson representatives of informal epistemic communities that could be affected by a new GM food should have the opportunity to decide the ethical, political or other normative questions that arise during the regulatory review of that entity.


Genetically modified (GM) food Genetically engineered (GE) animals Neoliberalism Democracy US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) GM salmon 



Research for this paper was funded by a Career Enhancement Grant from the University of Rhode Island’s Council for Research. I would also like to thank Jeffrey Burkhardt, the editor, for kindly extending the deadline for submitting the revised paper and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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