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BSE and the Regulation of Risk

Little G (2001) BSE and the Regulation of Risk. Modern Law Review, 64 (5), pp. 730-756.

First paragraph: The pressure on government in connection with the regulation of risk has grown in significance in recent years. In the United Kingdom (UK), it has also become highly controversial following the establishment in 1996 of the transmission, through the consumption of contaminated beef, of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) to humans as variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (vCJD), a fatal and incurable brain infection. Governments, regulatory agencies and courts have, of course, been evaluating the risks posed by scientific, industrial and technological advances in one form or another since before the industrial revolution.1 Increasingly, however, the current commercially driven developments in areas such as the agricultural and food industries involve issues which are at the frontiers of scientific understanding. Both the developments themselves and the regulatory responses to them can be viewed as symptomatic of what Beck has termed an emerging ‘risk society', in which ‘[e]veryone is caught up in defensive battles of various types, anticipating the hostile substances in one's manner of living and eating.'2 Whether the recent intensification of concern about risk is because modern society generates a greater number of more serious risks,3 or, as Giddens contends, because those living in late industrial societies are culturally more attuned to perceiving risks than their predecessors,4 it is at least clear that the debate surrounding the regulation of risks posed by new technologies is extremely complex.

Modern Law Review: Volume 64, Issue 5

Author(s)Little, Gavin
Publication date30/09/2001
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