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The following pretty much summarizes what I know and what is my opinion with regard to the inclusion of socioeconomics in biosafety and/or biotechnology decision making processes.

  • The inclusion of socio-economic considerations under article 26.1 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is voluntary. The scope of what is covered in this article is focused on (but not limited to) the value of biodiversity to indigenous and local communities communities.
  • Intent was to consider decision for importing LMOs.
  • Countries can (and have) expand the scope of Article 26 and devise implementation procedures in their national legislation.
  • There is a wide range of approaches and implementation processes between countries.  Range from no inclusion as in the United and Canada, to requiring socio-economic assessments focusing on trade as in Argentina, to (possibly) requiring socio-economic assessments covering a broad set of issues as in the European Union.
  • Countries are advised to analyze in detail if the inclusion of socio-economic considerations in their biosafety decision making, as there are many costs, benefits, risks and tradeoffs.
  • I advise countries who have decided to include socio-economic considerations in their biosafety decision making; to define socio-economic considerations, context, issues, methods, principles, decision making standards and quality control measures to ensure a viable system.
  • A vague/confusing/contradictory process for the inclusion of socio-economic considerations can lead to rendering a biosafety system that is ineffective or one that is paralyzed due to an unworkable system.
  • Countries are also advised to ensure that any proposed process for inclusion of socio-economic considerations meets the determinants of a functional system as outlined by Greg Jaffe in a 2005 publication.
  • Inclusion of socio-economic considerations will increase the cost of compliance with biosafety regulations and the total cost of development. Inclusion, especially if processes and decision making rules are not clear, can increase the time needed to complete biosafety processes. This will have a negative impact on innovation, especially those crops and traits coming from the international and national public sector, as well as, small private domestic firms.
  • The time value of money impact due to time delays is much more important than the increases in the cost of compliance. In other words, regulatory delays induce a loss of opportunity benefits from not releasing products to farmers earlier. These losses can be very high depending on the value of the benefits generated by the technology.
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