Modern biosciences require governance frameworks capable of simultaneously managing risk, coping with uncertainty, combating ambivalence, and building trust, while encouraging the delivery of those instrumental outputs that we value/demand. This multi-dimensional task makes the design and delivery of good governance frameworks extremely difficult. Efforts to date have, by and large, failed, particularly where the law has been relied on. Preoccupation with risk has tended to shape regulatory systems, but the conception of risk relied on is deficient, and its use is often oriented to support precautionary approaches in the absence of ‘evidence’. Our collaborative efforts lead us to suggest that more robust mechanisms need to be deployed which reveal and promote interactions with a fuller gamut of risks. We argue for a reflexive mode of governance which addresses the dynamic nature of science and uses the law more effectively as a value- and institution-framing mechanism.