The decision to include socio-economic considerations in biosafety decision making is in a political/policy action done by countries expressing their sovereign rights. Obviously, the mandate of including or excluding socio-economic considerations in biosafety processes may be derived from international obligations (i.e. the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety or the World Trade Organization), national laws and policies, implementing regulations or non-codified activities at the discretion of competent authorities. The latter are also policy and/or political structures by nature.
There are virtually no explicit technical reasons why society needs to include socio-economic considerations in decision making. I have discussed some potential advantages and disadvantages of including socio-economic considerations in a previous post (To see previous post please click here. The outcomes from the inclusion of socio-economic considerations are not equivocal – society does not necessarily win or lose all the time with inclusion- rather outcomes depend upon the country, regulatory status, technological capacities and even the specific crop and trait being examined. Furthermore, and if a country has decided for such inclusion, the way by which a specific country implements socio-economic consideration assessments, becomes critical in determining the regulatory outcome and its impact.
I have seen some commentators argue that inclusion of socio-economic considerations in biosafety decision making is a natural consequence from using the precautionary principle (or approach…) in that avoiding economic or social harm requires the assessment of such considerations before approving a GM technology for deliberate release. The issue, as in the case of environmental and food/feed safety assessments, with the latter argument really directly relates to what the interpretation of reasonable and robust efforts to assess, communicate and mitigate potential social and economic damage and what how society values the costs, benefits and risks from science, technology and innovation. More on this issue in future posts.