Perhaps it would be instructive to review those countries with practical experience with biosafety decisionmaking and then discuss the inclusion of socio-economics in this process. I did a quick check on the Biosafety Clearinghouse, and there are 356 cases on the “Decision on LMOs for intentional introduction into the environment (Article 7-10)”.

We need to take this data as a departing point for any analysis as we have to take into considerations all the known limitations of the BCH in terms of reporting. In fact, I am at least aware of three more countries with risk assessments and posterior decisions on intentional release that are not reflected in the following list.  Obviously, there may be other regulatory triggers for the inclusion of socio-economics such as decisions for LMO-FFP or transit, but I am focusing on what I considered the most likely candidate for such inclusion.

Since the Protocol does not contain the figure of “Confined Field Trial” recognized by many countries’ national laws and regulations, the count on deliberate release into the environment includes confined field trials, multi-locational trials and commercial release.

Bt cotton confined field trial in Thika, Kenya

Bt cotton confined field trial in Thika, Kenya

Country                       Number of decisions

Argentina                   2

Australia                     5

Brazil                            22

Canada                        45

China                           2

Colombia                   14

Costa Rica                12

Cuba                            9

E. U.                            31

Germany                  18

Indonesia                 1

Japan                          56

Malaysia                   1

Mexico                      12

Norway                     1

Philippines              4

Romania                  2

South Africa          3

Spain                       27

U.S.A                       89

Total                       356

Farmer Field School in the project PROMIPAC, testing the Bt maize, Honduras

These figures are clearly under-reporting the number of countries and events with a decision. Honduras, my home country, has had 7 events approved either for CFTs or commercialization. Nevertheless, the issue is still the ability and experience that a country has in approving an event all the way to commercialization. This figures by the way, may not include those LMO events approved for food/feed for processing (LMO-FFPs).

The big question then is how many of these countries and decision combinations have actually included socio-economic considerations into their decision making in real practice? Per discussions in many forums, it is our understanding of the situation that Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, India and China have done so in different manner. Yet, how a socio-economic assessment were considered in the final decision making process is a bit unclear.

Furthermore, biosafety assessments are a dynamic process that change over time as regulators and assessors learn and gain experience.  I believe it would be quite illuminating reading the actual decisions and then doing a follow up with the regulators and decision makers in order to understand what was the role and how was socio-economic taken into consideration  in those decisions.