There many definitions of what “socioeconomics” and “biodiversity” mean amongst countries and constituencies.

Even if we somehow box the definition of SEC within the scope of a literal reading of article 26.1 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, there are still quite a bit of issues that countries will need to clearly define to draft sensible policies. Note that much of the questions below are political in nature. The answers to these questions will likely come from policy formulation and political debate, hopefully supported by technical expertise.

  • Which biodiversity is relevant? Agricultural biodiversity (intra or inter-specific) versus global/broad biodiversity

Are we interested in the agricultural or other biodiversity that local and indigenous communities directly conserve, improve and use? Or are we talking about biodiversity that these communities view as their own? Would we be concerned with global impacts on biodiversity and the trade-offs involved with this decision. For example, an LMO (or Genetically Modified) crop may improve significantly production and productivity thus reducing the pressures on fragile land and infringement on natural reserves. How does one value this gain against the potential loses of biodiversity to local and indigenous communities?

  • Intrinsic, functional (i.e. providing ecosystem services) or perceived values for biodiversity?

Will we assess and base decisions on the potential innate value that biodiversity may have, or is it the value in use that we are interested? Will one reconcile different values placed on biodiversity based on perception about its intrinsic or perceived value?

  • Which indigenous and local communities? Local to what item; to a confined field trial or to sites for proposed general release?

Who is the local and indigenous community where the (potential) adoption impact will be measured? What happens if release is literally a long distance away? What is the role of mitigation measures that may accompany release? Is potential damage enough to make a decision? Note that if the answer to the later question is that it is enough, then this decision separates itself radically from the risk assessment process which includes likelihood and damage.

  • Which definition of sustainability? Consider existing definitions such as weak vs. strong sustainability

How are we going to discount the future and the future value of decisions made today? Do we incur sacrifice today or do we ask our future generations to do so? Alternatively, do we reap the benefits today or do we leave these benefits for our descendants? Note that this implies an inter-generational balance and trade-off which is not easy to resolve.