APH 2004, 62, 83-106:

Regulating Red and Green Biotechnologies in Belgium: Diverging Designs of Biopolicies.

F. Varone, N. Sciffino

Keywords: assisted reproductive technologies, biopolitics, biotechnologies, genetic testing, genetically modified organisms, public policies

Our contribution aims to compare the Belgian public regulation of two biotechnology sectors: biomedicine (red biotechnology) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs, green biotechnology). The question that puzzles us is why GMO policy is more interventionist than the policy regarding assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Through docu­mentary analyses, interviews and reputation approach, we highlight three main categories of explanation. First, the difference in terms of policy net­works is of high relevance: a "policy community" in the field of biomed­icine allows a looser regulation than the GMO "issue network". Second, polity peculiarities -such as the key role of political parties, the federal­ist structure and the (non) existence of an administrative agency- partly explain the differences between GMO- and ART- policies. Indeed, polit­ical parties adopt a more pro-active strategy towards GMO than biomedicine; federalism is implemented in a cooperative way and with a clear share of competencies in the GMO sector, but not in the case of ART; and while a Biosafety Agency ensures a multi-level coordination of GMO issues, such a centralising administration is still lacking for bio­medicine. Thirdly, the pressure for harmonisation by the international and the European organisations is stronger in the agro-food and the environmental sector than in the biomedical sector. The generalisations that emerge from this analytical framework can help to formulate biopoli-des in other sectors, such as genetic testing.