This chapter offers a new examination of why genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or transgenic agricultural and food products, have been rejected by Europe. Contrary to current impressions that consumer and environmentalist preferences have kept transgenic products out of Europe, we claim that Europe's limited public spending on the basic life sciences and their dominance in agro-chemical markets meant that from the outset European firms were not in a favourable position to exploit biotechnology. In fact, banning GMOs allows Europe to protect its own agricultural markets. It remains contrary to the interests of European producers in agriculture and agrochemicals to extend intellectual property protection (IPP) to cover the plants and agricultural biotechnology, because foreign competitors have dominated innovation in these fields.
In this chapter we develop a political-economic framework and present evidence to advance this simple argument that, for the majority of European chemical and agricultural interests, active attempts to promote science and technology policies for agricultural biotechnology would have worked against their own economic interests. It is argued that had the innovative capacity and thus the position of European industry and agriculture been different, they might have been able to profoundly influence not only European policy but even European public opinion to entertain a more benign view of biotechnology. The chapter then concludes by speculating on the future of GM crops in Europe.
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