Synopsis of Socioeconomic considerations in biosafety descisionmaking: Methods and implementation

Daniela Horna, Patricia Zambrano, José Benjamin Falck-Zepeda
ifpri issue brief

The use of genetically modified (GM) crops has increased over the years since the United States, Argentina, Canada, Australia, and Mexico each commercialized one or more of certain GM crops—insect-resistant cotton and maize and herbicide-tolerant canola and soybeans—in 1996. By 2012, at least 12 crops with a number of GM traits were planted on 170 million hectares in 28 countries. Most adopting countries have commercialized these crops after implementing regulatory frameworks that include standard food and environmental risk assessments. Numerous countries, including some in Africa, are making decisions based not only on these risk assessments but also on the potential socioeconomic effects of GM crops’ adoption and use, such as their impact on trade and farmers’ income.

Countries that are party to the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international agreement that provides “an enabling environment for the environmentally sound application of biotechnology” (text from the CPB), are required to have biosafety frameworks in place to regulate transboundary movements of GM organisms before releasing these organisms within their jurisdictions. The protocol also states that nations can voluntarily include socioeconomic considerations in their regulatory processes.

Socioeconomic Considerations in Biosafety Decisionmaking: Methods and Implementation addresses potential methodological constraints when including socioeconomic considerations in GM crops’ regulatory process. The authors provide guidance on conducting an ex ante economic assessment of a GM crop by using the case of GM cotton in Uganda. Such an assessment can be used when making decisions to support decisionmaking about GM crop adoption.