Food Safety Crisis in Germany

BSE 2000/2001

Seminar Paper, 2009

26 Pages, Grade: 1,3 (A)


Table of content


1. Introduction

2. Good Governance

3. What is BSE?
3.1 Historical context
3.2.BSE as a problem of European Law

4. Germany 2000/2001

5. Analysis of the rapid change in German agricultural policies

6. Conclusions

7. Summary in foreign language


Bibliography and Internet resources


The agricultural sector represents a perfect example of a strong demand for a rapid change in regulations. The BSE crisis in Germany in 2000/2001 may be seen as an example of such an incremental change. The question arises: how such change can be stimulated? This research paper argues that global food safety crisis might cause rapid food regulation policy alteration on a national level. Special role here plays intense public reaction to the danger due to its sensitivity to environmental threats, which partly stimulated politicians to an adequate reaction. Might this reaction be considered as a sign of a Good Governance?

1 Introduction

Food, as a basic human need, presents a very unique governance challenge. Assuring its quality, sustainability and safety are one of the core responsibilities. This governance process may be complicated due to its global and local commodity in the same time. Thus food safety and food regulations are emblematic of many contemporary policy issues, where some aspects of globalization challenge the social norms in smaller, national communities. They tend to be the political space, in which opinion about what is safe to eat is shaped, but information flows globally. The BSE problem in Europe, that appeared not more than 25 years ago, is an example of a new kind of food safety risk in the globalized late-modern society. Conventional agricultural and health politics are no longer considered suitable for such new risks, leading to a new kind of politics. In answering the question whether a new kind of food regulations is developing and how does this look like, this contribution studies how these changes went in particular in Germany.

The BSE-Krise experienced in 2000/2001 is highly interesting in its consequences for public life. The public reaction to the danger was very intense and stimulated the government to proceed with incremental changes in agricultural policy and management. The question arises: Can these changes be called a Good Governance? Why the risk perception in Germany was so high? Why the German BSE crisis stimulated changes on the European level?

In order to proof that the regulatory agenda, despite some technical failures, expanded in Germany positively, the following discourse will be divided into five different sections. The opening section positions the BSE crisis within contemporary debate about the Good Governance. The chapter analyses how human health risk can stimulate changes being, the significance of an open discussion, the national risk sensitivity and, finally, its contribution to the Good Governance concept.

Next, the paper reviews the governmental history of the Mad Cow Disease in Europe with special focus on the previous big crisis in the United Kingdom. British national and European Union's failures in the crisis assessment and management as well as the lack of a transparent public discourse may explain why there was previously a big mistrust of the German government to international institutions and experienced experts from other countries. Section three of the paper then considers the course of the German BSE crisis. Detailed governmental steps within the timeframe of November 2000 and October 2001 in connection with a public reaction on them will be shown. This part considers also the possible reasons and challenges for the German new governance in the domain of food safety from a variety of perspectives.

In conclusion it will be analyzed how the changes described can proof the concept of the Good Governance in German context. In doing so, answers on how government can deal with such types of crises will be provided. Finally some interesting findings regarding food regulation changes due to a food safety crisis will be summed up.

2 Good Governance

The governance is defined as the most effective tool in order to solve civil political conflicts between competing social claims (GROTE; MBIKPI 2001). This formula applies to agricultural and rural problems too because governance is considered to compensate the weakness of traditional forms of political-administrative interventions (LANGE 2004: 1). Decisive is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented) ( These interventions however, mostly concern rapid and incremental changes that happen due to a dramatic demand for them. It is inevitably connected with a conflict in which firmly established power structures will be shaken. Renn places in the centre of good governance a term: the governance of risk (RENN 2007). This risk can consider different aspects, inter alia the human health risk. This is why it is essential that all changes being made are also predicated upon "open public". People are highly interested in their safety and any government is obliged to react on it. A major factor here will be then the so called "political receptiveness" — governmental skills to gather public demands. This receptiveness can become skewed due to lack of "risk sensitivity" (BECK; KEWELL; ASENOVA 2007: 3). Risk sensitivity is an ability to perceive a threat and demands rather a strong reaction in order to diminish this risk.

Government is one of the actors in governance. Other actors involved in governance may vary depending on the level of government that is under discussion. In rural areas, for instance, other actors may include influential land lords, associations of peasant farmers, farmer lobby groups, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, finance institutions political parties...etc. (CHANDIO 2008). The Good Governance implies effective political institutions and the responsible use of political power and management of public resources by the state. Essentially, it is about the interaction between democracy, social welfare and the rule of law. The Good Governance thus extends beyond the public sector to include all other actors from the private sector and society (

Chandio distinguishes following eight major characteristics of a Good Governance[1]. Those characteristics are: participation, consensus orientation, accountability, transparency, responsiviness, effectiveness and efficiency, equitability as well as inclusivity and following the rule of law. They assure that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.


It could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. Nevertheless it is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society will be taken into consideration in decision making. Participation requires information and organization. This means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.

Rule of law

Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. [...] Impartial enforcement of laws in turn requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.


Transparency means that decisions taken and respectively their enforcement are done in a manner guaranteeing that rules and regulations are followed. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided in easily understandable forms and media.


Good governance requires that institutions and processes are serving all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.

Consensus orientation

There are several actors and as many points of view in a given society. The Good Governance requires mediation of the different interests in society. In this way a broad consensus among burghers can be reached so that an acting in the interest of the whole community will be given. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.

Equity and inclusiveness

A society's well being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly just the most vulnerable have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being. Effectiveness and efficiency

Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.


Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law (comp. CHANDIO 2008).

Out of the indicators mentioned above it becomes clear that the Good Governance is an ideal approach which is complex and hard to achieve in its entirety. Very few states and societies have come close to accomplishing good governance in its totality. However, to guarantee sustainable human development, certain actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it real.


[1] see Attachment 1

Excerpt out of 26 pages


Food Safety Crisis in Germany
BSE 2000/2001
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)  (Faculty of Cultural Science)
Globalization in 20th century
1,3 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
715 KB
This is a very claer-structured and well-written paper. Compliments for your English skills! Your concept of "good governance" is a bit idealistic but you are able to make some important points very clear.(professor's comment)
BSE, Germany, Food, Food Safety, Crisis, Food Safety Crisis, Good Governance
Quote paper
Elzbieta Szumanska (Author), 2009, Food Safety Crisis in Germany, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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