Drawing on the institutional analysis and development framework, this paper explores the likely influence of socio-economic issues on the processing of the application for the authorization for genetically modified wheat by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in the period 2002–4. As an attempt to explain why the CFIA regulators asked for additional environmental data relating to the unconfined release of this crop, and refrained from making a regulatory decision, this analysis focuses on the interaction between the rules that frame the formal approval process and the involvement of various actors in a lively social debate. It argues that the flexibility provided by the regulatory decision-making process, combined with the socio-economic issues that were forcefully raised by interest groups, academics and parliamentary committees, created a distorted regulatory landscape that led regulators to further scrutinize the environmental impacts of this seed.

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