Cultural Difference Creates the Policy Gap. The cultural intricacies surrounding the creation of food safety policy in the United States and the European Union are the major focal points of Guehlstrof and Hallstrom’s article titled, “The Role of Culture in Risk Regulation.” This piece addresses the chasm between American and European food safety policies and the historical, and cultural determinants of the current protocols.
How did regulation of GMO crops begin?
The main point of emphasis in discussion of American food safety centers on the way organizations that regulate GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) crops were created based on the wishes those selling the GM (Genetically Modified) products. The scientists and businessmen behind these genetic developments reasoned that a governmental body regulating the industry would provide credibility in a very untested industry. Naturally, the organizations that spawned from these conversations provided the wiggle room necessary for a lucrative GM business to evolve.
European regulation of GMOs developed in quite a different manner. The E.U. established a clear set of checks that were aimed at protecting consumers from any negative externalities associated with GM crops. This system required both the E.U. and the governing body of each individual state to allow for the import and sale of GM products. The general opinion of GM products in Europe adhered to the “Precautionary Principle” which is characterized by the idea that unknown results should be avoided, just in case they could be detrimental.
What are the main cultural differences in food safety between the E.U. and the U.S.?
Guehlstrof and Hallstrom identify the main determinant of the current opinions of Americans toward food safety as a byproduct of the “scientization” of food. We, meaning Americans, desire experimental results to determine whether the products we consume are safe or not. We generally do not regulate these products until they have been proven to be unsafe. The ultimate cultural link that the authors draw is that the American Dream does not aim to check opportunities that provide the allusion, or the manifestation, of a scientific breakthrough. The American Dream instead provides a chance for these discoveries to grow and develop and proof of a negative byproduct is the only way to verify that a discovery isn’t synonymous with progress.
Yet again, European’s adoption of the Precautionary Principle pins these two cultures on opposite sides of this issue. Whereas Americans assume products are suitable for sale and consumption until disproven, European protocol is to assume side-effects will be negative until they are proven harmless. This has resulted in serious discontinuities between U.S. and E.U. food standards, manifesting primarily in the differences between the consumption and growth of GM crops.
- Food safety is important as it can cause long and short term health issues.
- To prevent this, food must be kept safe throughout the entire process, from the growing, to the packaging, transporting and selling to the consumer.
- The United States’ food safety measures are separated between the FDA and USDA, and the focus of
both is on safety and proper labeling as to not mislead consumers.
- Europe’s food safety is based on the regulation by the European Food Safety Authority, or the EFSA, which encourages protection of health, consumer interest and risk analysis.
- The largest difference between the US and Europe’s food safety measures is the perception of risk of the food. Many differences in the two systems are caused by cultural and historical differences between the US and Europe.