The Innovation and Diffusion of Policy: Novelty in the Canadian Regulatory System for Plants with Novel Traits
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In 1993, the Canadian federal government made a decision with respect to the direction that the country would take in regulating agricultural products of biotechnology, commonly referred to as GMOs or GM crops. Following the lead of the United States, Canada adopted the innovative “product-based” approach to regulation, making it necessary for all GM crops to go through the regulatory system in order to gain approval for commercialization. However, the iteration that Canada’s adoption of the policy took differed from the form that the product-based approach took in the United States. Canada created a category of “plants with novel traits”, which is based on the concept of novelty and reflects the idea that products of newer technologies such as recombinant DNA are not fundamentally different than those developed through more conventional means. The United States does not require regulation on novel plants created through conventional means via a regulatory trigger which seeks out plant pathogens, present only in newer, recombinant technologies. As a result, many crops developed through more conventional modification techniques such as mutagenesis are not subjected to the American regulatory system, but are in Canada. The objective of this paper is to determine how Canada and the United States came to adopt the product-based approach to regulation, where the Canadian system began to differ from the American system, and why the Canadian system has not diffused internationally, despite being the most directly implemented representative of the product-based approach. This is accomplished via the application of the policy change, policy diffusion, and policy innovation literatures. Theories of policy change and diffusion are introduced. I trace the history and diffusion of novelty using the historical method, and test the applicability of other diffusion models to the case study in order to determine their predictive power in an international diffusion scenario. The innovation literature is also applied in order to explain how and why the product-based approach to regulation has been incorporated differently at multiple levels of regulatory policy. I conclude with an argument that Canada has lost a “standards war” with the United States for regulatory superiority, in light of lost marketability and a less permissible regulatory landscape, which must prompt us to re-evaluate our regulatory approach.
DegreeMaster of Public Policy (M.P.P.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteeZarzeczny, Amy; Castle, David; Bradford, Neil; Rayner, Jeremy
Copyright DateMarch 2015
plants with novel traits