Among farmers worldwide, and in particular in developing countries and transition economies, genetically modified (GM) crops have progressively grown in popularity and are now planted in approximately 160 million hectares in 29 countries. In the discussions of biosafety regulations for GM crops and whether to approve such crops for commercialization, many countries, including some African nations, have gone beyond environmental assessments and are now introducing socioeconomic considerations as part of their decisionmaking process. While there is scientific consensus that GM crops are as safe as conventional crops, these additional regulatory layers may be motivated by policymakers' concerns regarding public perception. There are, however, very few guidelines on how to ensure that this inclusion of socioeconomic considerations results in a robust and efficient decisionmaking process. Socioeconomic Considerations in Biosafety Decisionmaking: Methods and Implementation provides guidance to professionals involved in assessing the ex ante impact of a GM crop in the context of an approval process. Using the case of GM cotton in Uganda, the authors illustrate the evaluation of socioeconomic impact on farmers, the national economy, and trade.
The authors identify three crucial steps in making socioeconomic assessment part of a biosafety regulatory process, decisionmaking process, or both. First, select appropriate research tools and methods that yield robust results but that also take into account time and budget constraints. Second, evaluate the institutional setting of GM technology deployment. Third, allow for the uncertainties inherent in the assessment by using ranges of values for the parameters under evaluation, including yield, technology efficiency, and prices. These and other conclusions should provide useful guidance to policymakers and development researchers in countries that opt to incorporate socioeconomic considerations into their biosafety regulations, as well as their decisionmaking process for GM crop approval.