Factors Affecting Genetic Engineering Policy Outcomes
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The safety and sustainability of genetically engineered (GE) crops is an ardently debated topic. Serious concerns have surfaced regarding environmental impacts and health implications (VanHosen, 2015; Diamanti-Kandarakis et al., 2009; Gasnier et al., 2009), as well as many other controversial issues discussed in this study. Although these concerns have been dismissed by industry and scientists as the result of consumer inexperience and lack of understanding of genetic engineering (Sarich, 2014), there have been many restrictive GE legislation attempts, such as mandatory labeling of products that contain GE ingredients so consumers can make informed choices when making purchases, cultivation bans to protect non-GE farmers from cross contamination, and a range of other proposals, such as no GE food in vending machines (Oregon Secretary of State, 2014; Illinois General Assembly, 2015; Sarich, 2014). All of these efforts are similar in seeking some form of restriction of GE products in our food systems. At the close of this study, 36 states (5 passed), 13 counties (11 passed) and a handful of cities have proposed GE restrictive legislation. The purpose of this study is to understand which socio-economic, political, or industry factors are correlated with states having considered or passed GE restrictive legislation, as well as the percent of vote in favor of proposed GE restrictive legislation at the county level for states that have proposed such legislation through ballot initiatives. This is a mixed methods, comparative cross-sectional design with data gathered from publically available sources utilizing cross-tabs, bi-variate correlation, and multiple linear regression to determine if any relationships exist that correlate to either the formal proposal of GE legislation or the passage or failure of such legislation once proposed. Generally, the most powerful explanatory variable was the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election: States or Counties with higher percentage vote for President Obama were most likely to have proposed or passed GE restrictive legislation. In addition, states in the northeast of the US all have considered such legislation and some have passed such legislation, while states in the southeast are the least likely to have considered such legislation and none have passed. A comparison of those states that have considered GE restrictive legislation showed no difference between those states that passed and those that did not pass the proposed legislation in any of the variables considered apart from their vote in the 2012 Presidential election. The only states to pass GE restrictive legislation are those in which the proposal came from within the legislature, while those states that have held ballot initiative processes have all failed. However, a county-level examination of the ballot states showed that counties in which a greater proportion of the electorate voted for President Obama, also had a greater proportion that supported GE restriction.
- MA in Policy Studies