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Knowledge, expertise, and regulation: How did “endocrine disrupters” become objects of government? A France - United States comparison

Coordinators: Jean-Paul Gaudillière (Cermes3) and Nathalie Jas (Ritme, Inra Unit)

Summary of research project and expected results in terms of contributions to public action:

The project consisted in analyzing how the assumption of endocrine disrupters became, ordid not become, an object of research, expertise, and political debate. A comparison was made of the ways in which in the United States and in France two types of substances, hormones and pesticides, became endocrine disrupters in the second half of the twentieth century, given that the problematics of disrupters were established in one country and remained largely ignored in the other one. The central assumption was that this difference was less related to the presence or the absence of certain research competences than to practices of public expertise and debate having facilitated, or not, a convergence of ecology, medicine, and agriculture. The expected results of this research project included an elucidation of the factors that contributed to the fact that in France the “endocrine disrupters assumption” ran into—and is still running into—significant difficulties in finding spaces of reception, appropriation, and development. This elucidation was to contribute to feeding reflection aimed at giving greater visibility to the “endocrine disrupters assumption” in France. The research focused on “sex hormones” and “pesticides,” which played an essential part in constituting the disrupters assumption but had long been seen as controversial risk factors. These issues were explored along three lines: 1) a bibliometric analysis at two levels: by mapping the whole of the research literature on disrupters; and by performing a long-term quantitative analysis of the two issues; 2) a reconstitution of the activity trajectories of certain key actors in the United States and in France; 3) targeted analyses of some of the expertise and regulation schemes.