John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé

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The judge, the expert and the citizen. The example of GMOs Volume 9, issue 4, Juillet-Août 2010

Author
Science Po Lyon 14, avenue Berthelot 69365 Lyon cedex 07 France
  • Key words: environmental health, ethics, jurisprudence, legislation, organization and administration, organisms, genetically modified, reference standards
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2010.0359
  • Page(s) : 317-9
  • Published in: 2010

In France, administrative judges play a leading role in the diverse and sometimes conflicting issues related to environmental health. As judges of both the development and the application of regulatory standards, they are at the crossroads of two worlds, each assessing the other: the expert and the public. Their position is thus delicate. Although their own lack of scientific competence requires them to rely on the experts, they are nonetheless independent of them. They may also be subject to the pressure of public opinion and must defend the public's access to information, which is a constitutional value in environmental matters. Although the legal landscape of GMOs appears schematically as a clash between experts who proclaim the safety of these foodstuffs and public opinion, suspicious and desirous of the maximum amount of information, it is in reality more nuanced. Administrative judges are at the center of this picture and must ensure its coherence and balance.