Transparency to what End? Governing by disclosure through the Biosafety Clearing House

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Although transparency is a key concept in the social sciences, it remains an understudied phenomenon in global environmental governance. This paper analyzes effectiveness of ‘governance by transparency’ or governance by information disclosure as a key innovation in global environmental and risk governance. Information disclosure is central to current efforts to govern biosafety or safe trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Through analyzing the dynamics of GMO-related information disclosure to the global Biosafety Clearing House (BCH), I argue that the originally intended normative and procedural aims of disclosure in this case—to facilitate a GMO-importing country’s right to know and right to choose prior to trade in GMOs—are not yet being realized, partly because the burden of BCH disclosure currently rests, ironically, on importing countries. As a result, BCH disclosure may even have market-facilitating rather than originally intended market-regulating effects with regard to GMO trade, turning on its head the intended aims of governance by disclosure
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-144
JournalEnvironment and Planning C. Government and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • right-to-know
  • global environmental assessments
  • information disclosure
  • cartagena protocol
  • scientific advice
  • governance
  • accountability
  • politics
  • south
  • risk

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