Perhaps this is an appropriate time to clarify a common misconception that tends to propagate about socioeconomic assessments and that is that it is only about monetary costs and benefits. Nothing can be farther from the truth than this. Certainly those of us involved in the development economics and policies’ arena use monetary costs and benefits as part of a quantitative framework but it is not the only issue explored. After all working for an institute like I do whose commitment is seeking “sustainable solutions to end hunger and poverty” we cannot base our assessments and analysis only on this narrow issue.

In fact we are quite interested, and have done extensive farm and household level research with data collected with farmers and households along with many colleagues in the field, in examining issues such as gender, labor and employment, public health, environmental impacts, poverty implications, agro-biodiversity and subsistence crop biodiversity, small and informal seed systems, distributional issues and have done some inroads in examining irreversibility (I can share our work with colleagues at Wageningen University assessing the potential introduction of a fungal resistant banana in Uganda such as Kikulwe et al. 2011), amongst other things.

We have used both quantitative and qualitative assessment methods and frameworks in these assessments. We have also used quite sophisticated econometric and economic simulation methods and are using even more sophisticated bio-physical models -which in my mind continue to be projections or estimations about potential gains regardless if one uses baseline data- and are looking at long term projections of the impact of innovation and climate change unless based on actual farm/household level adoption of an actual technology.

I would thus propose that focusing only on a qualitative framework would actually hamper the quality of the assessment. Quantitative techniques and methods can help untangle many issues especially those related to defining cause and effect. Qualitative and quantitative frameworks are complementary and should be applied in practice as such. It is my opinion, that a call for qualitative-only frameworks for the assessment of socioeconomic considerations is misguided and will lead to incomplete assessment framework. Our experience with socioeconomic assessments is quite clear that more and better quantitative and qualitative methods and assessments are needed rather than less (See Smale 2012 and Smale et al 2012)

If the decision by some Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under Article 26 is to include socioeconomics in the decision for imports and perhaps broader considerations in their domestic measures, then the task at hand is how to define a process that will indeed lead to a functional system with such inclusion, and this implies defining the process and issues and consequences from such inclusion during implementation.

References

Kikulwe, E.M., E. Birol, J. Wesseler, J. Falck-Zepeda. 2010. A latent class approach to investigating demand for genetically modified banana in Uganda Agricultural Economics. 42(5):547-560. First published online 21 Jan 2011.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1574-0862.2010.00529.x

Smale, M.  Rough Terrain for Research: Studying Early Adopters of Biotech Crops. AgBioForum, 15(2), 114-124. Available on the World Wide Web: http://www.agbioforum.org.

Smale, Melinda; Zambrano, Patricia; Gruère, Guillaume P.; Falck-Zepeda, Jose´ Benjamin; Matuschke, Ira; Horna, Daniela; Nagarajan, Latha; Yerramareddy, Indira; Jones, Hannah. Measuring the economic impacts of transgenic crops in developing agriculture during the first decade : Approaches, findings, and future directions. 2009. Food Policy Review 10. Washington, D.C. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/pv10.pdf http://dx.doi.org/10.2499/0896295117FPRev10

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