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Narrative of certitude for uncertainty normalisation regarding biotechnology in international organisations

Abstract : Narrative theory has gained prominence especially as a companion to social construction of reality In matters of regulation and normalization, narratives socially and culturallyconstruct relevant contingencies, uncertainties, values, and decision. Here, decision dynamics pit risk generators, bearers, bearers' advocates, arbiters, researchers and informers as advocates and counter advocates (Palmlund, 2009). the decision-relevant narrative components (actors, themes, scenes, plots and scripts) are ripe with normative implications since competing narratives create worldviews that prescribe means for making sense of experience and resolving conflicts (Heath, 1994). As will be discussed in this paper, competing narratives of risk assessment and the distribution of harms and benefits offer vital insights to conflicts concerning the efficacy and safety of biotechnology applications as social drama. the tensions of this drama arise from battles over how safe is safe enough (Fischhoff, Slovic, lichtenstein, read & Combs, 1978), and how fair is safe enough (rayner & Cantor, 1987). one set of norms prescribe and guide the functions and structures of conflict resolution: how advocates of competing perspectives engage to resolve conflict through decision-making infrastructures. A second cluster of norms centers on the logics of risk-centric decisions: the gathering and vetting of evidence, the application of premises, and the evaluation of solutions, whether more aggressive or cautious in the face of uncertainties. risks attached to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are such that sensemaking capacities based on uncontestable and ample facts are scarce; scientific evidences and political interpretations that construct norms can contradict each other. In the conflict process, broad scientific and policy communities (" sound science " and " precautionary " advocates) compete to normalize this uncertainty by imbricating knowledge in larger cultural plots (Douglas, 1992). international GMO regulation principles in the course of the GMO controversy, two main norms have emerged at the international level, both of which encapsulate and are constructed by narratives of certitudes. one is enacted by sound science proponents who approach risk analysis and decisions from the standpoint of a high-order scientific rationality; the principle of substantial equivalence (SEP) required at least to be sufficiently convincing to industry lies on a life norm that formulate no difference between conventional and modified organisms. This is contested by one that emerged from deliberative civil society arenas which emphasizes uncertainties in the nature and health-envrionmental impacts of GMOs: the precautionary principle (PP). in order to describe and analyse these phenomena, we propose that narratives are salient human communication norms. applying this approach to risk policy narratives competing to weigh international agri-food trade norms, this paper examines the main competitive narratives and vocabularies endorsed by proponents and critics of GMOs during the dispute that engaged the United States and the european Union over genetically modified organisms GMOs within the World Trade organization WTO and the United Nation Convention on Biological Diversity's Biosafety Protocol (Un CBD BSP) from 2001 to 2007. Science-based norms, in this way, are to be analysed as technological norms: as both processes and outcomes (Perriault & Vaguer, 2011). their capacity to create intercomprehension is challenged by members of individualist and egalitarian organisation (Tansey & O'Riordan, 1999). Profit cements individualist organisations while membership to egalitarian groups is voluntary and therefore fragile: such groups "will select and emphasize dangers based on the need to maintain membership. the logic of the argument is that the greater the danger, the greater the binding force it creates amongst the members" (p. 77). Both international organizations have each endorsed one of the narratives described, and decision heuristics that can foster scientific norms' complementarities over contradictions do not emerge. neither is inherently best but the principles of deliberative democracy serves society by forcing the public vetting a specific scientific community to the forefront of cultural interpretation of risk: the goal is to determine how and if these processes serve political outcomes in ways that constitutes evidence of a fully functioning society (Heath, 2006).
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  • HAL Id : hal-00839222, version 2

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Robert Heath, Stéphanie Proutheau. Narrative of certitude for uncertainty normalisation regarding biotechnology in international organisations. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. pp.120. ⟨hal-00839222v2⟩

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