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Revisiting the Transatlantic Divergence over GMOs: Toward a Cultural-Political Analysis


  • Hannes R. Stephan

    (Hannes R. Stephan is a lecturer in environmental politics and policy at the University of Stirling.)


This article applies a constructivist perspective to the persistent transatlantic divergence over the regulation of genetically modified foods and crops. Political economy and institutionalism have so far dominated the literature. Notwithstanding their important insights, to achieve a better understanding of the nature and depth of transatlantic regulatory divergence, one must also study prevalent cultural values and identity-related public concerns regarding food and agriculture. These factors can be identified in public opinion trends and have fuelled resistance in Europe, while contributing to relative regulatory stability in the US. By conceptualizing cultural contexts as catalytic structures, the article also differs from more explicitly discursive accounts of political mobilization. Ultimately, however, an analysis of the cultural politics of agricultural biotechnology relies not only on the influence of pre-existing values and identities, but also takes account of the strategies (and material or other power resources) of political agents. © 2012 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Hannes R. Stephan, 2012. "Revisiting the Transatlantic Divergence over GMOs: Toward a Cultural-Political Analysis," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 12(4), pages 104-124, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:12:y:2012:i:4:p:104-124

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    Cited by:

    1. Klara Fischer & Camilla Eriksson, 2016. "Social Science Studies on European and African Agriculture Compared: Bringing Together Different Strands of Academic Debate on GM Crops," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(9), pages 1-17, August.
    2. Ronit Justo-Hanani & Tamar Dayan, 2016. "Explaining Transatlantic Policy Divergence: The Role of Domestic Politics and Policy Styles in Nanotechnology Risk Regulation," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 16(1), pages 79-98, February.

    More about this item


    genetically modified foods; agriculture;

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy


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