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The "revolving door" between regulatory agencies and industry: a problem that requires reconceptualizing objectivity

By Z. Meghani, J. Kuzma

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There is a "revolving door" between federal agencies and the industries regulated by them. Often, at the end of their industry tenure, key industry personnel seek employment in government regulatory entities and vice versa. The flow of workers between the two sectors could bring about good. Industry veterans might have specialized knowledge that could be useful to regulatory bodies and former government employees could help businesses become and remain compliant with regulations. But the "revolving door" also poses at least three ethical and policy challenges that have to do with public trust and fair representation. First, the presence of former key industry personnel on review boards could adversely impact the public's confidence in regulatory decisions about new technology products, including agrifood biotechnologies. Second, the "revolving door" may result in policy decisions about technologies that are biased in favor of industry interests. And third, the "revolving door" virtually guarantees industry a voice in the policy-making process, even though other stakeholders have no assurance that their concerns will be addressed by regulatory agencies. We believe these three problems indicate a failure of regulatory review for new technologies. The review process lacks credibility because, at the very least, it is procedurally biased in favor of industry interests. We argue that prohibiting the flow of personnel between regulatory agencies and industry would not be a satisfactory solution to the three problems of public trust and just representation. To address them, regulatory entities must reject the traditional notion of objectivity. Instead they should adopt the conception of objectivity developed by Sandra Harding and re-configure their regulatory review on the basis of it. That will ensure that a heterogeneous group of stakeholders is at the decision-making table. The fair representation of interests of different constituencies in the review process could do much to inspire warranted public confidence in regulatory protocols and decisions.

Date 2011
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 24
Issue 6
Pages 575-599
ISBN/ISSN 0893-4282
DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9287-x
Language English
Author Address Department of Philosophy, University of Rhode Island, 178 Chafee Hall, Kingston, RI 02881, USA.
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agencies and organizations
  2. Agriculture
  3. APEC countries
  4. Biotechnology
  5. Choice
  6. Decision making
  7. Developed countries
  8. Employees
  9. Ethics
  10. Laws and regulations
  11. North America
  12. OECD countries
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. personnel
  15. Policy and Planning
  16. Public opinion
  17. regulations
  18. rules
  19. Social psychology and social anthropology
  20. staff
  21. United States of America
  1. peer-reviewed