"Democratic reformers are attracted by the role that advisory forums composed of lay citizens can play in public consultation on complex policy issues (such as participatory technology assessment). Using a comparative study of consensus conferences on the issue of genetically modified food in Denmark, France, and the United States, the authors show that the potential of such deliberative "mini-publics" is quite different in different sorts of political system. They attend to the mode of establishment, perceived legitimacy, policy impact, and influence on public debate of the forum in each case. In actively inclusive Denmark, mini-publics are deployed in integrative fashion; in exclusive France, in managerial fashion; and in the passively inclusive United States, in advocacy fashion. Proponents and practitioners of deliberative participatory reforms should take into account the constraints and opportunities revealed by this analysis and attend to the different roles that mini-publics might play in different political systems."