Bt Cotton. Photo by cliff1066™.

Though I wholeheartedly agree with broad and inclusive assessments for analyzing and understanding all of the socio-economic considerations relevant to any potential technology adoption and diffusion, operating within a biosafety regulatory process involves technology assessments within the framework of a regulatory process. Furthermore, we need to carefully review when the assessment may take place as it has profound implications on the assessment in terms of methods and approaches that can and do have an impact on the research outcome.

Those researchers who have conducted repeated assessments of Genetically Engineered crops are familiar with the many difficulties and data limitations involved–especially when dealing with an ex ante assessment (before deliberate release), where there is no adoption and very little data on the technology’s performance and social, institutional, and even management practices that may change when dealing with the technology. This is why it is important to consult about the issues, limitations, methods, and multi-disciplinary approaches to evaluations with those experts with demonstrated track record of assessments (specifically with GM technologies and other emerging technologies) to ensure that proposed regulations for socio-economic assessments are feasible, transparent, protective, and, certainly, cost-effective.

Yes, these researchers, as well as other practitioners, can/ have performed a number of quantitative measurements such as randomly or purposely stratified field surveys and have/done/are doing qualitative assessments and even institutional analyses to understand the existing context in which these technologies may be released. There may be some scope for –very carefully—using data from the confined field trials and other advanced field trials, but experience has shown the critical limitation of this approach. The lesson here is to conduct and understand the outcomes of socio-economic assessments with extreme care.

Secondary data and contextual/institutional assessments done before deliberate release (ex ante) may help frame the projections and simulations (or forecasting in the strict sense of the word) that may be performed to quantify/qualify the potential real life issues. There is, in the end, no replacement for actual data collected from the adoption and farmer decision-making processes.  By the way, the latter, where data is collected, has a host of issues, especially for identification and attribution in the earlier stages of the adoption process. In this blog, I will share my experiences with one of our projects that examined early adoption processes in Honduras, Colombia, and Philippines.