Law, Science and the Management of Risks to Health at the National, European and International Level: Stories on Baby Dummies, Mad Cows and Hormones in Beef

7 Colum. J. Eur. L. 1 (2001)

Christian Joerges. Professor of Law, European University Institute (EUI), Florence (at present Thyssen Visiting Professor of European Economic Law, Columbia University Law School).

The main title of this contribution is theoretical and ambitious. The subtitle, however, announces more easily comprehensible narratives. It would indeed be hardly manageable to discuss systematically and comprehensively with all the complex issues which this contribution is going to deal with. On the other hand, any effort to address the “real life” of modern markets will have to take the issues named in the main title seriously. Our market economies are bound to respond to risks and hence deploy institutional frameworks within which risks can be “managed.” And it seems, in view of the state of economic developments, indispensable to address these challenges at transnational levels rather than from the perspective of one specific jurisdiction. Thus being caught between the Scylla of complexity and the Charybdis of simplification, a narrative turn seems an attractive choice.

My claim is that the three cases chosen illustrate in an exemplary way not just the omnipresence of the risk problem, but equally the failures of purely national responses, the need to establish transnational institutions and the legitimacy  problems of transnational governance structures. These general issues will first be briefly elaborated (Part I). The paper then presents three cases, placing special emphasis on the difficulties of organizing transnational legal responses to the Europeanization and globalization of markets (Part II). The final section takes a second theoretically informed look at the three cases. It first substantiates the need to respond to other risk problem and then considers the failures and achievements of national, European and global institutional frameworks (Part III).