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The GM Nation? Public debate: what was it all about?

Professor Tom Horlick-Jones
Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Email: Horlick-JonesT@cf.ac.uk|

Date: 27 October 2009
Time: 1:00pm - 2:30pm
: CARR Seminar Room, G305


This talk will revisit the experience of the British government-sponsored process of public debate concerning the possible cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops, which took place in 2002-03. The debate is occasionally mentioned by pundits (on both 'sides') in ongoing disputes about GM, usually as a source of support for their views. Otherwise, the debate seems to have largely disappeared from sight, and indeed, its website has been closed down. The debate's independent but accredited evaluation was perhaps the most comprehensive to have taken place for any process of public engagement, but there has been relatively little interest in its findings, whether from government, industry or pressure groups. The talk will focus on a number of key overlapping issues, including the origins of the debate; the technicalities and politics of public engagement; and some possible lessons concerning the use of public engagement as a policy tool in the governance of technology innovation.

About the speaker

Professor Tom Horlick-Jones has a personal chair in the sociology of risk at Cardiff University. He was team leader of the GM Nation? public debate evaluation project, and he is lead author of the book: The GM Debate: Risk, Politics and Public Engagement (Routledge, 2007; paperback 2009). Over a period of some twenty-five years his work has been concerned with conceptual and applied aspects of a wide range of risk-related issues; in particular emergency planning, safety in the energy and transport industries, strategic planning and decision-making, perception and communication processes, and the everyday management of risk. His current work is primarily concerned with risk and practical reasoning, knowledge brokering in policy-making, and the experience of serious illness.