Article 26.1 of the Cartagena Protocol (see below) opened the possibility of including socio-economic considerations as part of the decision making process. Important issues to consider are that implementation of this article is voluntary and that it has a limited scope to those factors affecting biodiversity especially regarding its value to indigenous and local communities.

The Cartagena Protocol does not mandate the inclusion of socio-economic considerations, although countries have the sovereign right of doing so in their national laws and regulations, but being consistent with their international obligations.

Introduction of broader socio-economic considerations into GMO biosafety analysis and the decision-making process is controversial as there are many approaches an options for regulatory design, development and implementation, which in turn have implications in terms of costs, benefits, risks and tradeoffs in terms of technology use, safety, gains in knowledge and regulatory impact.

It is certainly prudent for countries to consider all of these issues, starting from the most basic question of why each country wants to include socio-economic considerations into their technology decision-making processes. Regardless of whether a country has made a decision in the matter, for transparency purposes, policy and decision makers have to have a clear response to this question. I will cover later in future posts, many issues, options and tradeoffs related to this policy issue.

Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety


1.     The Parties, in reaching a decision on import under this Protocol or under its domestic measures implementing the Protocol, may take into account, consistent with their international obligations, socio-economic considerations arising from the impact of living modified organisms on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, especially with regard to the value of biological diversity to indigenous and local communities.

2.     The Parties are encouraged to cooperate on research and information exchange on any socio economic impacts of living modified organisms, especially on indigenous and local communities.

Source: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as part of the Convention on Biodiversity.