There is  misunderstanding about “economic” studies that I hope to clarify here. Though the economics literature clearly reflects a disciplinary approach, it does not exclusively convey “economic” results such as estimating profitability or net returns to farmers. In essence, it is not only about estimating monetary gains, although these are one of the many indicators used in the analysis.

Chinese Bt cotton

Chinese Bt cotton, Hebei province, China (c) Jose Falck-Zepeda 2010

The fact of the matter is that those studies that examined the first generation of LMOs -which had many limitations such as very little data, information and experience with assessments available- economists felt comfortable and confident in the results from first order indicators such as net profit other parsimonious economic impacts measurement. Most papers published in the literature have pointed out themselves these limitations especially with regard to their representativeness and for drawing generalizations from their findings. In fact, as time went by, most observers could see more issues and more complex methods being employed as practitioners gained experience and access to more data.

Those economists – like me – who are working with developing countries are particularly interested in researching many different aspects relevant to developing countries’ agriculture. Issues such as impacts on smallholder farmers, labor, food security, relationship to broader poverty alleviation strategies, gender and generational dimensions, impacts on public health, distributional aspects, relationship between developing countries public and private sector research and development and innovation, access to productive and protective inputs. Furthermore, we are interested in the impact of intellectual property rights and regimes on access and conversely on how to use IPR instruments to promote use, issues with biodiversity and its role in providing ecosystems services and as a risk management instrument for climate change and commodity price fluctuations, addressing freedom to choose and freedom to operate issues and many more.

The issue is not whether we need to research and gain familiarity and knowledge about these issues, the matter at hand is deciding what to include within the boundaries of a regulatory process focused originally on environmental risk assessment and now expanded to other areas. As I will describe later in this blog, there are many decisions to undertake in terms of regulatory implementation of socio-economic assessments inclusion in biosafety decision making including scope, timing, implementation entity, decision making rules; which need a lot of discussion. There are decisions for countries to make, hopefully fully informed about all options, alternatives, and trade-offs involved in such decisions.