The Homiletics of Risk

  • Lawrence Busch


Today there is considerable disagreement between the US and the EU with respect to food safety standards. Issues include GMOs, beef hormones, unpasteurized cheese, etc. In general, it is usually asserted that Europeans argue for the precautionary principle (with exceptions such as the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement where ``substantial equivalence,'' a form of familiarity, is used) while Americans defend risk analysis or what is sometimes described as the familiarityprinciple. This is not to suggest that EUmember countries agree on how the precautionaryprinciple should be applied; considerabledifferences exist among nations as will benoted below.

In this paper I review both positionsarguing that they are best understood asvariants of the homiletics of risk rather thanas differing scientific positions. I concludethat while science must necessarily enter intothe formulation of food and agriculturalstandards, state policy, private economicinterests, and the interface between the two(e.g., when democratic states are successfullylobbied to support particular privateinterests), play important roles in determininghow particular risks will be treated. Moreover,I argue that the role of science mustnecessarily be limited if its credibility is tobe preserved.

food safety genetically modified organisms policy regulation risk standards 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Busch
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Food and Agricultural StandardsMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA E-mail

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