Johan F.M. Swinnen and Thijs Vandemoortele
LICOS Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance & Department of Economics, University of Leuven (K.U. Leuven)

There are major differences in biotechnology regulation among various countries and in particular between the European Union and the United States. We summarize a formal and dynamic model of government decision-making on technology regulation, which shows that minor differences in consumer preferences can lead to important differences in regulation and that temporary shocks to preferences can have long-lasting effects. We argue that this model may contribute to explain the difference between EU and US biotechnology regulation. We discuss the European Union’s current authorization procedure of GMOs and illustrate its regulatory gridlock. We describe some institutional reforms that are being proposed and undertaken at the EU level to overcome this policy gridlock.

Key words: Political economy, biotechnology, EU regulation