Citizen Involvement in Decision Making about Biotechnologies

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Project PARADYS “Participation and the Dynamics of Social Positioning – the Case of Biotechnology. Images of Self and Others in Decision-Making Procedures”, in partnership with Poster, Vicenza.

The European Union has prepared a three-year programme related to public participation by citizens in the debate and decisions related to the release of genetically modified organisms for agro-food experiments. The activity took place between June 2001 and May 2004, involving seven European countries (Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and Hungary).

The Project was coordinated by the University of Bielefeld (Germany) using two research units in each country, one for socio-linguistics and the other for sociology, with some researchers from Observa.

After a preliminary phase dedicated to the study of European and domestic standards concerning transgenic applications, the research activity focussed on participation practices used by the citizens in specific local communities where open-field experiments with GMOs are underway.

Thanks to the study of materials collected by means of interviews, focus groups, on-site observations and video recordings, it was possible to analyse in detail how citizenship discussions were structured by the various subjects involved. Within this framework, citizenship was considered from a social point of view, analysing its various facets having regard to participation and the “social positioning” of the actors involved with respect to the subject examined.

The Italian case highlighted an information deficit on the part of national and local institutions as well as growing demands from the public at large. Apart from this, the sociological analysis revealed the existence of structured participation areas outside the contexts set out by the laws currently in force, leading to relevant actions by various organisations in civil society.

Finally, the comparison between the different countries made it possible to highlight the adoption of different participation practices on a national level, these range from limited institutional information actions to consultation and involvement processes of local communities.

Download the final report summary about the Italian case.

To know more about the project visit Paradys homepage