Governing Food: Science, Safety, and Trade


177 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88911-897-3
DDC 363.19'2




Edited by Peter W.B. Phillips and Robert Wolfe
Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Patrick Colgan is Director of Research and Natural Lands at the Royal
Botanical Gardens.


A product of the Canada-U.K. Colloquium, this important and timely book
has contributors from government, industry, and universities. The text
is well situated in the context of the long history of food regulation
and the current challenges for governments to inspect, for producers to
be responsible, and for consumers to be informed. The globalized links
of science, safety, and trade include such aspects as the precautionary
principle, pharmaceuticals, and nongovernmental organizations.

Under the science of risk assessment, cases such as hormonal use, prion
diseases, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) reveal the limits of
science in a political world. Under the management of risk, trade
involves both domestic and international regulations involving a variety
of approaches and organizations. Regulators being pushed by scientific
developments and labeling—particularly of GMOs—is a hot and highly
bureaucratic issue for producers and consumers. The (Canadian) Crop
Protection Institute, a trade association facing new realities and
marketing choices, is reviewed from a strongly industrial viewpoint. A
commercial perspective on globalization and food scares entails
approaches to knowledge and perceptions involving legislation and

Under safety and communicating risks, the perceptions of consumers on
both sides of the Atlantic are well analyzed for concerns and
credibility. In the United Kingdom, food labeling must deal with a
complex of health issues, animal welfare, and economic competition.
Particularly interesting is a report on two Canadian public
demonstrations as means of informing consumers. Internationally, deep
differences in societal values underlie the deadlock on trade in GMOs.

The accounts of the various topics are gratifyingly clear, and the
tables, figures, and list of acronyms are helpful. Overall, the material
well reflects the range and complexity of issues involved. Highly
recommended for everyone interested in their food.


“Governing Food: Science, Safety, and Trade,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,