Evaluating the 2008 consensus conference on genetically modified foods in Taiwan

Mei-Fang Fan

Genetically modified foods have become one of the most popular topics for deliberative exercises involving ordinary citizens worldwide. This paper examines the Taiwanese consensus conference on GM foods held in June 2008, and the implications and limitations of the public deliberations. The consensus conference facilitated multiparty dialogues and enhanced citizens’ knowledge, and affected their attitudes. This study demonstrates the ways contextual factors have influenced the outcome of the citizens’ deliberative practices, including the government’s conventional technocratic decision-making style, the strong influence of the U.S. government, the political and technological culture, the government’s framing of economic development concerns, and a lack of pressure from civil society to compel the government to formally respond to their concerns. The consensus conference had a limited effect on policy decision-making, and seemed to serve as a socio-political experiment.

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