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Online discussions on socio-economic considerations

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Forum 2: Focused discussion on literature and reports cited (discussion to take place during week 2 of the forum)

Forum closed. No more comments will be accepted on this forum.
Opening of Forum 2 [#9922]
MESSAGE POSTED ON BEHALF OF Ben Durham and Casper Linnestad, Rapporteurs

Dear Participants,

Welcome to Forum 2. You are invited to comment on and add views to the literature referred to in the submissions. When commenting on specific literature, please ensure that you provide the submission citing the literature and the number of the publication (e.g. “Mexico, reference 3”).

Kind regards,

Ben Durham and Casper Linnestad,
posted on 2019-09-14 23:17 UTC by Ms. Paola Scarone, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9924]
Dear Participants:
I have followed the discussion, but unfortunately until now I had the time to participate.
It is a shame that the texts sent by Mexico for this discussion are in Spanish, cause they wont be appreciated by all the participants and also they do not reflect what has been investigated in the country about SEC for GM. I wonder if this was due to the recent change of government that implies new actors at the head of the institutions.
I want to comment on the article: Rosa Binimelis & Fern Wickson (2018): The troubled relationship between GMOs and beekeeping: an exploration of socioeconomic impacts in Spain and Uruguay, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, DOI: 10.1080 / 21683565.2018.1514678 (“Third World Network, reference 4 ”)
The relationship between GMOs and beekeeping is the particular case of SEC, because is an externality for the beekeepers. In Mexico, commercial planting of transgenic soybeans was authorized for seven states and in three of them honey production is important.
For the approval of genetically modified planting soybeans in Mexico, in 2012, there have not been done any studies to take into account socio-economic considerations. Mexico is the 3th largest producer of honey in the world and the 6th exporter. Honey in the region known as the Peninsula of Yucatan is highly demanded due the variety of flowers that gives honey taste and special features.  The European Union modified the rules for imports of honey, as outlined in the article by Binimelis & Wickson, such that does not accept Mexican honey for transgenic soybeans growing in that region. Despite the fact that the EU rules were modified, the damage was already done.
The production of honey for small farmers is a supporting activity for their staple crops; the absence of this income turns their productive system even more vulnerable. The expansion of GM soybean monoculture affects the biodiversity that today use bees and threatens an export market for thousands of producers. This case is a clear example of the importance of taking into account the SEC and ex ante studies for decision making.
The Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation three years later suspended the commercialization permit for genetically modified soybean in 19 municipalities of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán. The social mobilization of the Mayan communities contributed to a government decision. The National Service of Agrifood Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) revoked the permission to sell and distribute genetically modified soybeans, in June 2017. However, GM soybeans continue to be sown despite the ban and no monitoring or actions have been carried out.
It has been mentioned that the SEC would be a trade barrier; however, if the risk assessment includes information on the consequences of SEC, decision makers can make decisions that anticipate the negative consequences of the environmental release of LMOs.
posted on 2019-09-16 03:56 UTC by Dr. Michelle Chauvet, Mexico
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9927]
we have the same a challenge in understanding post in Spanish by Mexico. Do we get the Englihs version?

best regards
posted on 2019-09-16 08:54 UTC by Mr. Assefa Gudina Mulata, Ethiopia
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9932]
Thanks, Michelle, for emphasising this bee issue (#9924) - and its profound SE implications - particularly from a Developing World perspective. My first thought was that this is not a biodiversity impact issue, but reading the article makes me think this perhaps relates to an impact on "sustainable use" of biodiversity.

I think that this is particularly a WTO issue(?), because I am not sure how Article 26 of CPB could have helped in preventing/mitigating the issue?

posted on 2019-09-16 13:23 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9936]
Dear All,

It is indeed difficult if submissions are written in a language that we do not read, but after more than 30 years participating in AHTEGs and on line fora, I know that this is an unavoidable fact of life, since nobody has the time or resources to translate submissions, and Google translations are typically not suited for translation of specialised texts of topics with specific jargon. One partial solution might be that those who submit reports add a translation of the title in one or more (other) UN languages.

Turning to the ongoing debate: the case of the bees that Michelle Chauvet raised shows how important it is for our discussion that we identify which scenarios fall under the scope of Article 26, so that we comply with the instruction of the COPMOP.

With regard to the bee-case we can distinguish at least two possible scenarios pertaining to potentials socio-economic impacts. One scenario is that growing a GM crop could result in the occurrence of GM pollen in honey, which may have regulatory - and therewith also socio-economic - consequences. The other scenario is that growing a GM crop would have significant adverse effects on the numbers of honeybees, which in turn can have socio-economic consequences.

Article 26 addresses the second scenario, as that scenario looks at socio-economic considerations arising from the impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
In the first scenario the socio-economic considerations arise from regulatory conditions in potential markets, and not from the impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, i.e. article 26 is not relevant for the first scenario. This, however, does not mean that there are no mechanisms to address that scenario. On the contrary, there are several ways to address the first scenario, such as national mechanisms on liability for traditional damages.

In terms of utility of the voluntary guidance, it might be useful to have a sort of ‘checklist’ to help flesh out which scenario we are talking about in specific cases.

Looking forward to the continuation of the discussion

posted on 2019-09-17 09:18 UTC by Mr. Piet van der Meer, Ghent University, Belgium
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9937]
Thanks, Piet (#9936) - distinguishing the two scenarios provides useful insight and clarity as to what is ‘covered under Article 26...
posted on 2019-09-17 11:15 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9938]
Dear all,

first of all, I would like to thank you for the helpful input to this forum. My special thanks go to Michelle for raising the topic on bees which I also find very beneficial to highlight the limits of Article 26, as Piet has already pointed out.

Let me add some further thoughts to the two scenarios:

I agree with Piet, that the first scenario is not covered by Article 26, as long as we do not define beekeeping and honey production as “sustainable use of biodiversity”. However, this does not mean, that a socioeconomic analysis should not be carried at all. Indeed, it can be done under national law, if desired. In economic terms, the advantage of this case lies in the market (private) good of honey, as Piet has already pointed out. So, it should be possible to obtain data or make good ex-ante assumptions to carry out a sound science-based socioeconomic analysis.

For the second scenario, which clearly addresses biodiversity issues, the case is more tricky.
The bee population (which does not only include honey bees) and its pollination services can be considered as a public good in a long-term perspective or a common pool resource in a short-term perspective. Here, different methods have to be applied to assess the value of pollination for different stakeholders in the first place and secondly to find out the effect on different stakeholders if this service (good) is no longer provided due to the adverse effect of the LMO. There may be a problem regarding data availability. Beyond that, I would find it very helpful to receive some input from other economists participating in this forum, which scientifically accepted methodological approaches would be suitable to address this issue.

Still, as already pointed out by South Africa, this case would apply for the EU neither, since a LMO with ex-ante detected adverse effects on bees would not be approved.
posted on 2019-09-18 09:37 UTC by Dr. Nicola Consmüller, Germany
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9939]
Dear Participants
Greetings from Republic of Korea!

Thanks for the two scenarios which should help clarity the scope of Article 26.
I would like to go further on scenario 1, 'the impact of GMO on the number of bees' by sharing my reading of the paper by Rosa Binimelis & Fern Wickson (2018) which I found very informative and useful to our discussion. Thanks for the introducing the paper.
I very much agree with the point that the scenario 1 is relevant to Article 26 because it recognizes the natural role of bee as a pollinator, an essential player for keeping biodiversity. If the cultivation of GMO has the impact on the number of bees then it should invoke the Article 26.

Authors identify largely four features associated with GMO which adversely affect the number of bees.
1. Direct impact of GMO to bees with toxicity
2. Large scale of monocroping of GMOs which reduces the foraging land for bees
3. Intensive use of broad spectrum herbicides which reduces biodiverse flowers and food sources for bees
4. Associated use of pesticides with GMO cultivation which are considered harmful to bees.

Since ecotoxicoloy of GMO is scrutinized in the risk assessment process, the authors argue that other 3 features need to be taken into account as Socio-economic impacts.  They also argue that since 3 features are 'integral' part of GMO, it is necessary to take them into account ex-ante not just to achieve the goal of co-existence of diverse agricultural systems but also to protect marginalized stakeholders such as beekeepers.

I very much concur the systematic approach to GMO the authors are taking, going beyond the technological approach.  Technology is not functioning in isolation, I think.
However, I am not quite sure whether large scale monocroping, intensive use of herbicide and associated use of pesticide is integral to GMO technology, where I think a room for SE considerations to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as well as co-existence of diverse agricultural model the authors envisage.

Best regards

Hong-Tak Lim
posted on 2019-09-18 09:41 UTC by Mr. Hong-Tak Lim, Republic of Korea
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9945]
I do not think that it is useful to always think if this issue is within the scope of article 26 or not as a determing factor for whether or not to assess the socioeconomic consideration as long as it is relevant. Even within the Protocol socioeconomic considerations are not restricted to Article 26. One of the most important socio-economic issues addressed in the Protocol is explicitly stated in all the relevant provisions of the CPB, particularly its Article 1 (Objective) and Article 4 (Scope) which emphasize the need to take into account the risks to human health when considering the possible adverse effects of LMOs. The issue of public health in itself has a strong socio-economic dimension.

I think that article 26 is not meant to define the scope of what should be considered as socioeconomic considerations but rather it establishes and justifies the right of a Party to take into account impacts on its social or economic conditions for purposes of making decisions on imports of LMOs or in implementing domestic measures under the Protocol while Socio-economic considerations in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety are rooted in the Convention on Biological diversity

posted on 2019-09-20 07:26 UTC by Prof Ossama AbdelKawy, Seychelles
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9947]
AHTEG's work has helped in taking forward the implementation of Article 26.1 and in building a case for robust guidelines in identifying SECs. Public health has a strong socio-economic dimension and the challenge lies in choosing right criteria/indicators to measure public health impacts under SEC.
IMHO we need more work on this and case studies can certainly help in this.
krishna ravi srinivas
posted on 2019-09-20 07:42 UTC by Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas, India
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9948]
Thank you for interesting discussion. I have similar reading of the Art 26 as it was explained by Ossama. The Socio-economic analysis is based on scientific data and information and could not be ignored or its importance minimized in the case of LMOs possible impact assessment. It should be applied along with the environmental risk assessment and involve knowledge on possible effects to health care, traditional knowledge, labor and market interest, ethical considerations, and also economic and financial loss of biodiversity values, ecosystem services, financial aspects of genetic diversity and benefit sharing etc. etc.

Angela Lozan
posted on 2019-09-20 12:40 UTC by Ms. Angela Lozan, Republic of Moldova
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9951]
As was discussed last week, the clarity provided by the WTO's SPS Agreement and its use of the IPPC's ISPMs, SEC application is very narrowly defined. Parties that voluntarily decide to include SEC assessments will have to apply a narrow SEC scope to ensure they also remain compliant with existing international obligations. The IPPC provides exception clarity in the scope of SEC application, describing that clear science-based methodologies must be used in an assessment.

Stuart Smyth
University of Saskatchewan
posted on 2019-09-20 15:22 UTC by Dr. Stuart Smyth, Dr.
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9955]
With respect to the posts by Ossama (#9946, #9945) and Angela (#9948), and while not denying the importance of SE considerations, I think we are missing the point. My view:

1. The CBD and CPB are focused on the biodiversity (conservation and sustainable use), largely because we humans (arguably barring those living in close ‘harmony’ with nature) have a track record of abusing the environment. We are in the middle of the 6th great extinction, with massive implications for biodiversity and indeed all humanity (let alone those intimately and directly dependent on biodiversity).

2. We are not able to ‘negotiate’ the interpretation of Article 26. The wording is clear, and we can’t - in this forum at least, open up the CPB for re-wording.

3. Countries have a responsibility to legislate in favor of the people of that nation. The CPB can in no way be seen as undermining this responsibility.

So, as per Article 26, we need to think of the impacts to biodiversity- with particular reference to those directly dependent on it- as the trigger for considering socio-economic impacts.

posted on 2019-09-20 18:48 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9949]
The global, OECD developed, science-based risk assessment methodology already provides for a full and comprehensive assessment of human health. This is done by quantifying the safety of a LMO through scientific protocols that provide data on allergenicity, toxicity, metabolization, nutrition and dietary exposure. It would seem an inefficient use of resources to duplicate what would have already be verified scientifically. Evidence to date, shows that some GM crops are safer than conventional or organic corn varieties. Pellegrino et al. examined 21 years of GM corn production, finding "GE maize performed better than its near isogenic line: grain yield was 5.6 to 24.5% higher with lower concentrations of mycotoxins (−28.8%), fumonisin (−30.6%) and thricotecens (−36.5%)." Mycotoxins are correlated to esophageal cancer. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-21284-2

Article 26 does define the scope of SEC application as it clearly articulates that all SEC application has to be in full compliance with a Parties previous international obligations, which includes the WTO and its narrow scope of SEC application.

Stuart Smyth
University of Saskatchewan
posted on 2019-09-20 15:15 UTC by Dr. Stuart Smyth, Dr.
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9950]
Dear all,

I appreciate this opportunity to participate, learn from others’ experiences and  discuss this very important topic. I have read some submissions and I think that it is very important to consider the social economic impacts by the introduction and use of genetically modified crops and it is necessarily included in regulatory frameworks such as ethical considerations.

Regarding this aspect, and according to Catacora- Vargas et al., 2017 the social impacts by OGMs are classified in five important categories: economic, distributional, access and ownership, wellbeing and cultural heritage and the concept of impact implies a direct cause-effect relationship from this point of view, I think that local people play an important role.

While the cultivation of GM crops can have a number of socio-economic effects and some of with have been investigated , I consider that  there have not been done any type of integral study to take into account socio-economic considerations. In this aspect, it is very important to think about monitoring plans,  because the socio economic impacts are accumulated by GM crops in the medium and long term.

It is important to consider aspects such as emerging risks, creation of new technologies and the possible adverse effects in the environment and health. Actually, it is important to consider the responsibility and compensation for damages caused by the transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms, it must also be taken into consideration formulating regulations or flexible procedures between countries and it should be updated according to the time as well as to take into account other considerations such as proper labelling, including risks to the environment and biodiversity.

On the other hand,  I agree with the comment ( 9924) related to the expansion of GM soybean monoculture which affects the biodiversity, principally the biodiversity bees and resulting in adverse effects like change in land use, etc. However, I think that the participation of local communities is very important and this participation can, in the future, help to change in regulatory frameworks. For example, in Mexico the social mobilisation on the Mayan communities has been an important contribution to a government decision and, consequently, in the Conservation of biodiversity but it is necessary to increase this type of efforts.

Best regards

Mariana Ayala

Biosafety Subdirection, INECC, Mexico City
posted on 2019-09-20 15:21 UTC by MsC Mariana Ayala, Mexico
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9952]
Dear All
I would like to draw your attention to the Special Issue of Asian Biotechnology and Development Review (ABDR) Special Issue on Biosafety and Socio-economic Considerations  Vol 14 No 3 November 2012 available for free download from
We have published articles on CPB in other issues also.

ABDR is an international, peer reviewed journal available in Open Access mode. It is indexed in Scopus, Ebsco Host and CABI Index. It is recognized by University Grants Commission of India as an approved journal for researchers, faculty and students to publish and meet the criteria for journal publications. I am the Managing Editor. We will be happy to receive articles on SEC, CPB and on related themes.
Krishna Ravi Srinivas
RIS New Delhi
posted on 2019-09-20 15:58 UTC by Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas, India
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9953]
Dear Participants,

    This is a kind reminder that Forums 2 and 3 will close later today, at approximately 23:59 p.m. GMT, as scheduled. A report summarizing the discussions will be prepared by the rapporteurs.

Kind regards,

posted on 2019-09-20 16:11 UTC by Ms. Paola Scarone, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9954]
Dear All,
as co-chair of the AHTEG on SECs I want to thank all of you for your valuable contributions. I was following the discussions with great interest and believe that they will be a good basis for the discussion of the group later this year.

Thanks again and all the best

Andreas Heissenberger
posted on 2019-09-20 16:33 UTC by Dr. Andreas Heissenberger, Austria
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9958]
Dear Dr. Andreas Heissenberger, it's indeed a great pleasure to participate in such a Promising discussion. Interesting enough, as the discussion is trying as much as possible to limit it to core issues of Article 26 of CPB,  the more diverse the discussion, indicating the diverse nature of SEC of LMOs. However, I believe we have been able to utilize submissions and studies to harmonize and interlink the discussions to Article 26 of CPB. Interesting triggers for the guidance documents has been raised and I believe and hope that AHTEG will benefit from the report of discussions.

Onyeka Nwosu
posted on 2019-09-20 19:47 UTC by Mr. Onyeka Kingsley Nwosu, Nigeria
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9960]
Returning briefly to the topic of this thread, on literature and reports cited, I wanted to highlight the paper by Catacora-Vargas et al. (2017), which demonstrated limited empirical socioeconomic research (particularly on social impacts) of living modified crops.

The authors cite other serious shortcomings in the literature: the focus on short-term studies; lack of contextual analysis; the application of untested or unjustified assumptions and extrapolations; incomplete information on relevant research parameters; and, the use of conventional agriculture as the “universal” comparator, which masks other alternatives, both for research and policy. The most substantive, to them, is the economistic bias at the expense of more attention to social dimensions and effects.

Quote from the conclusion: “Above all, we argue that the large sample of existing peer-reviewed literature on SEI [socio-economic impacts] research for GM crops has systematically reported policy conclusions without enough properly qualified empirical data. This becomes evident from specific examples as: normative recommendations based on short-term increases in yield extrapolated to identical long-term conclusions; short-term decreases in herbicide-uses presented as constant over the long run; reduction of labour equated automatically to lasting reduction in costs analysed from the economic benefit lens without considering the inherent social costs; the commercial monopoly over seeds portrayed as economic competitiveness only, without careful attention to the associated contractual dependencies and the surrounding political economy.”

"Adequate SEI scientific practice related to GM crops will require acknowledging the limitations of single-discipline economic, econometric and related methods, and—even when social dimensions are investigated—the short term quality of most current research. To advance on this, towards more realistic in-context trajectory evaluations (Ely et al. 2014; Herrero et al. 2015; Leach et al. 2010; Pavone et al. 2011) a key step would be to overcome the inconsistency of appraising long-term global development goals (e.g. hunger- and poverty-reduction) by using only short-term studies (Ervin et al. 2011). By doing this, SEI research, publication and debate will develop more legitimate authority for itself, contributing also to identifying and answering further biosafety policy-relevant research questions, such as “what are the real social and economic effects of GM crop-adoption?” “on which groups and in which ways?”, “under which local conditions?”, “for how long time?”, “who gets excluded and why?”, “what are the indirect social and environmental costs?”, and perhaps most crucially, “could GM crops bring real, sustained social benefits if governed and developed under a different political economy?” Addressing these questions will also require public and open deliberations with a broader range of informed policy actors and stakeholders than has hitherto prevailed."

kind regards
Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
posted on 2019-09-20 21:12 UTC by Ms. Li Ching Lim, Third World Network
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9961]
Dear All,

I commend Ben Durham for his efforts in trying to keep the debate on the topic instructed by the COPMOP.

Having participated in very many on debates over the years, I have seen many occasions where the discussions went in every possible direction, and consequently nowhere.

I believe that this online discussion has again illustrated why it is useful to have some clear, practical guidance in relation to article 26.

In fact, I believe that it will be useful to add an introductory section to the Voluntary Guidance with some background on article 26 and its relationship with other articles.

With that perspective, some observations:

1) Article 26 did not establish the right of a Party to take socio-economic conditions into account in decision making on import. That right already existed long before the CPB negotiations had even started. What article 26 does is reiterating that right and clarifying the triggers and conditions under which that right can be executed, i.e. in decision making on imports of LMOs in the case when there are impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and consistent with international obligations.

2) The fact that socio-economic considerations may also have relevance to other provisions in the CPB does not mean that we can ignore the trigger and conditions of Article 26. As Ben Durham rightly said, online discussions are not the place to start renegotiating the CPB text.
Best regards to all,

posted on 2019-09-20 22:23 UTC by Mr. Piet van der Meer, Ghent University, Belgium
RE: Opening of Forum 2 [#9962]
Dear Dr.Andreas Heussenberger
Thanks . We look forward to deliberations of AHTEG and its outputs.
krishna ravi srinivas
posted on 2019-09-20 22:49 UTC by Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas, India