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What is really important is that the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, regulators and decision makers will have to have a clear understanding of what they want and need in terms of socioeconomics and socioeconomic assessments. Countries will need to define the scope, the when, the how, the decision making standards. They will have to also define a way to judge between competing claims even those peer reviewed. Defining and developing functional biosafety systems is the goal here, at least that is my understanding. I agree that a socioeconomic study can help identify potential issues and their impact if done properly following the elements of best practice such as those delineated in the impact assessment association guidelines from the (IAIA). One cannot study every socioeconomic issue and then expect having robust results that can help guide regulatory outcomes and decision making.

I also know that there are also other benefits, costs, risks and the possibility of introducing public policy distortions from the introduction of socioeconomics into the regulatory process. The later arises due to interest groups “gaming” the system or what a colleague with expertise in public policy called “rent seeking behavior”. Because of the potential regulatory outcomes, and since debates about biosafety in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are not an academic exercise, the need exists to describe these issues to the parties, while providing them with the information and tools necessary to draft a decision.

Speaking from the experience performing many socioeconomic research studies and assessments, one cannot study everything. If an assessor attempts to do so, this then becomes an unwieldy and prohibitively costly exercise. We need to identify and select which issues are more important in order to define the proper research methods and approaches that will yield a robust assessment whose outcome is scientifically credible and defensible. This is the reason why I insist on focusing our efforts in devising guidelines for the Parties in order to help them with this prioritization process and further implementation if they deem this as an item helpful for decision making. I sincerely hope the collection of socioeconomic issues being collected in different discussion forums do not become a wish list of all SEC things out there, which in some cases may not be even relevant to a Party. That would not be helpful.

Finally, while participating in debates with people having with different opinions about GM crops, I am a bit hard pressed to understand or think about terms such as contamination, suicides, poisoning, or ecological genocides; as neutral. The terms convey a message of harm or damage. Moreover, it is debatable that some of the purported consequences presented in many discussion forums are indeed real impacts, leaning more towards unverified claims exploited by pressure groups. At the very least, it is quite easy to produce lists of peer reviewed studies disputing many of these claims, especially those claiming a harm which in some situations relied on opinions and/or questionable research. So, life lesson is when people start using terms that are focused on eliciting an emotional response or when using evidence which has not followed the principles of science and scientific methods/approach….then it is prudent to be a skeptic…I am one, even of my own research!!!

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