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The issue we are facing, being that I work part of my time in a capacity building/strengthening program, the Program for Biosafety Systems, is that many countries have included in their policies, law, or even regulations, a  formal mandate to include not only socio-economics, but even cultural, ethical, aesthetic and religious issues in the process. The issue is of course, that very few, if any, countries has a clear pathway to assess and to implement such mandate.

Coming up with a feasible, cost effective, science based, objective and practical assessment and approval approach will be extremely difficult, especially if one’s intentions is to build a well defined and transparent process leading to a functional system. Meaning one that is designed to allow the possibility of having approvals, rejections, or in some cases require more information, as potential outcomes. I am not writing here about systems which may render a “no” decision regardless of which event is being assessed. This may be the case of those countries which have put in place a GM crop moratorium for other reasons than not having the capacity to implement environmental or food/feed safety or socio-economic assessments.

I will be organizing several consultations with other experts in the socio-economic assessment field, to see if we can come up with a set of general guidelines, perhaps better defined as a a set of best practices for conducting such assessments, on the table for discussion. If we are talking about a well defined socio-economic assessment, it would still be feasible in my mind depending of course on what are the issues of concern., when will the assessment be made and if one has a well defined decision making road map (i.e. rules and standards).  Assessment becomes  a difficult process when you include broader issues such as ethics or cultural aspects. By the way, putting together the results from the risk assessment (food/feed and environmental) with the socio-economic assessment, in a coherent and robust/defensible decision making process, will be a major undertaking too.

Keep tuned for more details.