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These are extracts from the presentation made by Mr. Bjarte Rambjor Heide (Senior Advisor Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management). Click here for the presentations made at the CBD Secretariat and RIS event on socio-economics Delhi India November 2011

The Norwegian Gene Technology Act in its article 10 includes a requirement on the assessment of socio-economic considerations of genetically modified organisms.

The Norwegian Gene Technology Act has five assessment criteria:
– Health
– Environment
– Ethics
– Sustainable development
– Benefits to society

The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board (NBAB) has provided input and opinions into the implementation of the Act based on official country policy and the precautionary principle.

The NBAB has suggested a set of relevant questions for the assessment of benefits to society
– Is there a need or demand for it?
– Can it solve a problem for the society?
– Is it better than corresponding products?
– Are there better alternatives?
– Does it help create new employment opportunities?
– Does it cause problems for existing production?

The NBAB has also suggested guidance questions for sustainable development assessments:

– Global impacts on biodiversity?
– Impact on the efficiency of energy use?
– Impact on the degree to which basic human needs are met?
– Impact on the distribution of benefits between generations?
– Impact on the distribution of benefits/burdens between rich and poor countries?
– Impact on the global/transnational environmental impacts of economic growth?

In my opinion these are quite useful guidance questions to which a lot of thought will need to be given in terms of designing research required to answer the questions. These are deceptively simple questions which will likely require complex research to answer them if a formal assessment process is desired to answer the questions.

There may be a possibility of using simple methods and research approaches that will provide some answers to these questions, but a lot of thought will have to be invested in figuring out whether these are robust enough to provide desired answers. Finally, I believe it would be advisable to think a bit on when these questions will be answered. Will it be for regulatory approval for commercialization? Or will it be for the post-release monitoring – if required?