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The Paralyzed EU Authorization of GMOs: A Fighting with Fear?

Ji Li

The EU authorization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is the most strange and controversial area in the whole EU law system. The scientists are seriously distrusted by the general public, the comitology procedure does not work at all, and the authorized GM products are banned by Member States without legitimate reason. But this is not the case in any other field of environmental law, and cannot be explained simply by precautionary principle or political pressure. This phenomenon provokes the author's interest: what is the crux of this predicament? In this article, the author attempts apply the psychological study on environmental issue - usually called 'the laws of fear' - to explore the conundrum. Mainly developed by Paul Slovic and Cass R. Sunstein, this theory revealed some entrenched differences between ordinary people and experts in reading the environmental risks, and how the public's fear may influence the environmental policy.This article mainly contends for three points. First, the 'experts v. ordinary people' scenario is also taking place in the authorization of GMOs and has become the cause of the deadlock. Second, the 'science' in GMO regulation is far from 'pure numbers', but has already incorporated the public's various concerns. Third, the real problem is not how much risk there is, but how much risk people can accept. Unfortunately, the current legal response actually aggravates people's fear and the EU needs to change its train of thought in this regard.

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