Governments have several policy instruments available for influencing the speed of adoption of agricultural biotechnology and the ultimate market share of products produced with its use. Differences between countries in rates of and conditions on regulatory approval of agricultural biotechnologies result from different approaches to the factors included in risk analysis and the inclusion of different factors. Differences in labeling policy result from these same sources, as well as from different views of the consumer’s right to know about how a product was produced. An economic evaluation of the use of risk analysis to regulate agricultural biotechnology and products derived from it focuses on the welfare effects of the policy chosen relative to those of alternative policies that could have been chosen. The full application of benefit/cost analysis in different countries may indicate that different policies best suit their varying situations. [EconLit Subject Codes: K2, F1, Q1] © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Governments have several policy instruments available for influencing the penetration of agricultural biotechnology into their environments and agricultural/food systems. These policies affect research, intellectual property rights, regulatory approval, labeling, and trade. They influence the speed of adoption of agricultural biotechnology and the ultimate market share of products produced with its use. This article contains an evaluation of the current use by governments of risk analysis in making decisions about regulatory approval and labeling policies. This includes an outline of the steps involved in the risk analysis process (e.g., risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication) and the range of factors considered by different countries in making regulatory decisions regarding use of agricultural biotechnology. The evaluation will focus on the impacts of risk analysis approaches on the timing of introduction and the adoption rate (market share) of new agricultural biotechnologies. The article concludes with a case study of differences in policy for the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on retail packages.
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