An evolving science-society contract in India: The search for legitimacy in anticipatory risk governance

Gupta, A.


This article analyzes evolving institutions and practices of anticipatory risk governance in India, through the lens of two recent and highly controversial developments in governing genetically modified crops in Indian agriculture. These developments include, first, conflicts over approving (or not) the very first genetically modified food crop in India and a related experiment in participatory decision-making; and second, proposals to revamp the existing biosafety regulatory system (with its checks and balances across diverse sources of authority) with one that elevates scientists and scientific expertise to the pinnacle of decision-making power. The article analyzes the distinct means by which legitimacy is sought to be conferred upon the means and ends of anticipatory risk governance, as reflected in these two examples. I contrast claims to legitimacy deriving from innovative experiments in participatory democracy with legitimacy claims based upon “objective” science, showing that despite acknowledged need for the former, the latter is still being prioritized. The article concludes by identifying the contours of an evolving science-society contract in India, as revealed by these cases