Cowpea. Photo by IITA Image Library.

It is important to point out that the issues, methods, and analysis are intricately interconnected. The issues will determine the methods, which will be limited by the way in which the assessment is conducted within the regulatory system. If the assessment is conducted before deliberate release (ex ante), there is no adoption to measure and thus no data to be collected on adopters. This will reduce the portfolio of methods that can be used for the socio-economic assessment.

If the assessment is done after deliberate release (ex post) then the issue becomes designing appropriate data collection approaches that explicitly consider avoiding sampling and statistical bias. Note that practitioners can and have used survey data collected on the current producers using existing technologies in order to project potential benefits and all available secondary data.

Differentiating between a baseline and a counterfactual is critical. A baseline is a state of nature measured before the intervention by which to compare the state of nature after the intervention. A counterfactual is that state of nature that would have happened without the intervention. In social and economic analysis, we do not have the luxury of controlled experiments–though significant progress has been made in quasi-experimental approaches such as difference in difference approaches—by which to isolate the treatment from other confounding factors.

Most economists prefer using a counterfactual because of the limiting nature of social and economic baselines;  other external factors may have also taken a role in explaining the observed state of nature with the intervention. Usually, the issue is then selecting or constructing a counterfactual as it is not observed in practice.

Here is a very partial list of methods that have been used for economic-based studies. In a separate post,  I will provide a partial list of methods that have/could be used for broader social, anthropological, cultural, and ethical assessments.


  • Partial budget/accounting
  • Econometric/statistical estimations


  • Willingness to Pay (WTP)
  • Changes in consumer perceptions
  • Impact on health
    • Daily Life Year Adjusted (DALYs) lost
    • Use of consumption patterns to project changes in fortified foods


  • Economic surplus
  • Stochastic economic surplus
  • Real options
  • Damage abatement
  • Partial budgeting
  • Stochastic partial budgeting
  • Linear and non-linear programming methods
  • Stochastic simulations
  • Farmer decision models (lexicographic learning approaches)
  • Applied Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models – village, region, national and regional levels


  • Trade models using GTAP (Generalized Trade Analysis Project)
  • Applied CGE models
  • Partial budget
  • Partial equilibrium / economic surplus models