When Europe-wide protest arose against agbiotech in the late 1990s, opponents linked its risks with globalisation, which symbolised the neoliberal policy framework. Sustainable agriculture was invoked in divergent ways by proponents and critics of agbiotech. By the late 1990s a legitimacy crisis led to a regulatory impasse. Some analyses diagnosed deficits in regulatory procedures and stakeholder relations, thus needing a remedy in risk governance. Eventually policymakers defined a common problem: how to restore public and market confidence. Regulatory changes began to accommodate criticisms from mainstream consumer groups and environmental conservation agencies. By contrast, environmentalist groups still sought to undermine public confidence in safety claims. In mediating the conflicts, various governance roles operate as sources of further tension. Risk regulation will continue to bear the burden of legitimacy problems unless R&D agendas are opened up for debate and change.