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Online discussions on socio-economic considerations

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Forum 3: General discussion (discussion to take place during week 2 of the forum)

Forum closed. No more comments will be accepted on this forum.
Opening of Forum 3 [#9923]
MESSAGE POSTED ON BEHALF OF Ben Durham and Casper Linnestad, Rapporteurs

Dear Participants,

Welcome to Forum 3. You are invited to post any further general comments and views on the submissions made.

Kind regards,

Ben Durham and Casper Linnestad,
posted on 2019-09-14 23:22 UTC by Ms. Paola Scarone, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9925]
An interdisciplinary socio-economic assessment that include Social Cost Benefit Analysis with sensitivity analysis, scenario analysis, quantitative participatory approaches and choice-based experiments can help develop bottom-up policies. Some of the policy suggestions to promote LM crops include: (i) Public Private Partnerships(PPP) in seed development could check the monopolistic pricing of seeds and companies; (ii) Involvement of farmers’ representatives and village Institutions in the regulatory process and (iii) Increase number of training programmes to create awareness on production and consumption benefits to harness the potential of technology.
posted on 2019-09-16 06:50 UTC by Dr. Manjunatha Arahalli Venkataronappa, India
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9926]
Greetings and good morning. I have seen policy suggestions explained by Dr. Manjunatha Arahalli Venkataronappa, from India. The challenge we have in Ethiopia is that there is no domestic private companies  involved on supply of LM crops seed and the country has to import GMO seed from abroad with high cost of import. So from India's  so far experience can we learn from them on how private companies from abroad can produce seed (for example  private companies from India can produce seed in Ethiopia and sale to the producers in Ethiopia so that seed supply will be secured? Ethiopia has recently approved commercialization of BT-cotton and about 500 ha of land is under production. But as I have said, producers are suggesting that the cost of bt-cotton seed is not affordable and discouraged them to produce on the large scale.

Assefa Gudina Muletata
From Ethiopia
posted on 2019-09-16 08:48 UTC by Mr. Assefa Gudina Mulata, Ethiopia
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9928]
Dear colleagues

in decision CP-9/14, the COP-MOP took note of the “Guidance on the Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations in the Context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety”. It invited the submission of preliminary experience using the Guidance as well as examples of methodologies and applications of socio-economic considerations in light of the elements of the Guidance[...].  16 submissions were received.

Allow me to be a bit provocative in this comment:
1.  While some CPB members and non members did consider (and approve) LMO introductions into their territories since the last COP, no submissions indicate that they commissioned a study using or as per the Guidance document (SA is case in point, where all applications were/are considered for direct SE issues, but none required a SE study arising from impacts to the biodiversity, and Norway's approach was based on existing information & analysis, but without an additional study).

2.We have discussed - in forum 1 - some principles and some applications on SE considerations (eg. France & Norway), but not really methodologies (although Norway, for example, makes some reference to them in defining its position, and France raises the cost/benefit analysis approach). Forum 2 may be the appropriate place to discuss further.

3. There has not really been discussion on the utility of the Guidance document (although I note that a number of countries indicate that the discussion is often beyond the scope of Article 26, and both Austria and South Africa submissions for example, commented on the Guidance document.).

Can we get some discussion on the utility and/or potential utility of the Guidance document?

posted on 2019-09-16 10:54 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9929]
As an output from a UNEP/GEF project we (RIS)  have produced a guidance document titles as
"Resource Document on Socio-Economic Considerations (SECs) of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs)
and it is available at

If more information is needed please write to me <ravisrinivas@ris.org.in>

Krishna Ravi Srinivas
RIS, New Delhi
posted on 2019-09-16 11:04 UTC by Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas, India
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9930]
So, to respond to the request for information on utility of the Guidance Document:):

According to the SA submission, the Guidance document should include a trigger for (voluntary) SE considerations under Article 26.

This trigger -it is proposed- should be before Stage A: Preparation for assessment. 

Something to the effect of: "Stage 0: Trigger
"Where a LMO is considered likely to have a negative impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity (especially with regard to the value of biological diversity to indigenous and local communities), considerations of potential socio-economic impacts may be taken into account."

it is noted that if a LMO is considered likely to have a positive impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity [...], then the outcome is aligned with the CBD and the CBP and a study therefore would be redundant except perhaps for advocacy(!).

posted on 2019-09-16 11:38 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9931]
A second comment regarding the utility of the Guidance document:

Given that there is 'scope creep', and not all the discussion in this forum and in previous fora is strictly limited to the scope of Article 26 (ie. arising from impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity), South Africa is concerned that the detail provided for establishing SE considerations - particularly if incorrectly used for measuring DIRECT SE impacts - may often be excessive (and therefore cause extensive delays for regulators to reach a decision).

It has been previously raised that an evaluation of SE impacts may not require a detailed study, but rather analysis of existing data by the regulators, a simple email to stakeholders (with responses), or a simple form of consultation (France & Norway's submissions - although not simple - illustrates this).

It is suggested that the Guidance document needs to include a statement that the overall assessment process described in the document may be far more detailed than is required to reach a conclusion on SE impacts.

posted on 2019-09-16 12:21 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9934]
Dear All,

I very much support Ben’s plea to keep – in the interest of this forum - this discussion within the scope of article 26 and to focus on the instruction to look at the utility of the Guidance document.

As regards the scope of article 26, we should keep reminding ourselves that article 26:
- deals with decision making on import of LMOs,
- effectively reiterates what was also the case before the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol, i.e. that in such decision-making Parties may take into account socio-economic considerations arising from the impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity,
- reflects a certain discretion of Parties, and not an obligation, and that this discretion has limits set by that Party’s international obligations, 
- has a key qualifier in the phrase ‘arising from the impact of LMOs’.

As regards the utility of the Guidance document, I agree with the suggestion to formulate a sort of ‘trigger’ when article 26 might kick in (i.e. related to the impacts of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity).

It may also be helpful to explain in the guidance that socio-economic considerations may in some case require a detailed study and in other cases a much simpler approach.

Looking forward to the continuation of this debate,

posted on 2019-09-16 22:50 UTC by Mr. Piet van der Meer, Ghent University, Belgium
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9935]
As regards Utility of the guidance,  I agree with Mr Piet that it will be helpful to highlight in the guidance that SEC may in some cases require detail study and some,  a much simpler approach.
However,  the need to recognize the issues of timing,  scope and elements of best practices will guide it right.

It is of note to also identify that if a country decides to include socio-economic considerations as part of the biosafety decision-making process, then it is prudent to design carefully appropriate regulations in line with Article 26 of CPB that will ensure a functional system. Rules and regulations may as much as possible try to clearly spell out procedures for inclusion of socio-economic considerations to avoid blanket or unsupported regulatory decisions that other members of society may challenge legally. In essence, evaluation procedures need to comply with elements of best practice or disciplinary rigor. By following this approach, I think countries may indeed make use the merits of socio-economic impact assessments while reducing any possible demerits.

Onyeka Nwosu
posted on 2019-09-17 07:53 UTC by Mr. Onyeka Kingsley Nwosu, Nigeria
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9933]
I think you have raised an excellent point Ben, there has been a general lack of discussion about improving the clarity of undertaking SEC assessments.

In 2014, in collaboration with Karinne Ludlow (Monash U) and Jose Falck-Zepeda (IFPRI), we published an edited book that provides a very structured look at SEC aspects as they relate to biotechnology regulation (https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9781461494393). We used a chapter template that provides information and specific details as to what methodologies exist, including data requirements, a critical assessment of the methodologies, discussion of what international obligations exist and what administrative consequences exist. This template was applied to 15 common SEC factors: producer/society benefits, consumer choice, environment, ethics, food security, health, biodiversity, traditional knowledge, intellectual property, labour, market access, trade, producer choice, culture/religion and animal welfare.

The book identifies that in several SEC factors, there are no methodologies in existence, capable of undertaking a SEC assessment. In other instances, there is such a lack of data availability, or the ability to gather data, that no assessment would be capable. The SEC factor chapters illuminate that the further a SEC factor is from being capable of being assessed using science-based methodologies, the greater the difficulty in undertaking a SEC assessment.

I believe this book provides considerable clarity to many of the ten general principle as outlined in the Annex to the AHTEG report on SECs.

Stuart Smyth
University of Saskatchewan
posted on 2019-09-16 20:22 UTC by Dr. Stuart Smyth, Dr.
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9941]
Dear participants,

Thank you for this interesting discussions on SE considerations.

Piet has clearly demonstrated that different scenarios of SE impacts may or may not fall under Article 26.  In the case where Article 26 applies, risk manages could benefit from an ex ante evaluation of the socioeconomic impacts of their decisions.  For example when risk assessors identify  adverse effects of a GMO to  the environment, then risks are evaluated and management measures may be adopted to mitigate these risks.  Alternative mitigation measures could be considered, as for example different isolation distances from protected entities. The socioeconomic impact under each alternative mitigation measure would enable risk managers to take more informed decisions. In this respect this voluntary Guidance would be useful.

I understand that scarcity of data and methodologies is a key issue. In terms of improving this Guidance I would agree with Ben to introduce a trigger step. Another proposal would be to create an inventory of available indicators, methods and data resources or even best practices, so that Parties may use them  on a case by case basis.

For example the European Socio Economic Bureau  in their report of 2015 (https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/framework-socio-economic-analysis-cultivation-genetically-modified-crops) propose:
- a scientific approach (comparative assessment of scenarios including for example non-cultivation as a baseline scenario  and cultivation at different adoption rates),
- a number of topics and related indicators as the starting point of the socioeconomic analysis (impacts on the costs for farmers, upstream and downstream operators, consumer prices and global food security)
- suitable methods, depending on the indicators and the level of analysis

Anastasia Pagida
posted on 2019-09-18 14:05 UTC by Ms. Anastasia Pagida, European Union
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9942]
Dear colleagues,

Thank you for the very interesting discussion. I agree with the previous submission from Anastasia Pagida, that the European Socio-Economic Bureaus report from 2015 might contain some useful elements.

Since I was not able to participate in the discussion last week, I'd like to add some information from Finland, where socioeconomic aspects have so far not been very extensively discussed (there is no GM-cultivation). However, Finland has arranged a Nordic-Baltic expert meeting on socioeconomic considerations of GM cultivation in 2013. The meeting was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and it was aimed to provide an overview on the discussions on socio-economic impacts of GMOs in the EU, on an international level (Cartagena Protocol) and in the different Scandinavian and Baltic states, and to discuss challenges and possible ways forward. Although we were not able to formulate clear recommendations, it was pointed out and agreed by all participants that it is of utmost importance to frame any assessments of socio economic impacts of GMOs in the right context, e.g. by respecting the countries' different agricultural and economic circumstances but also the different policies with regard to agricultural and rural development.

Best regards,

Katileena Lohtander-Buckbee
posted on 2019-09-19 13:19 UTC by Dr. Katileena Lohtander-Buckbee, Finland
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9940]
Dear Participants,

Thank you all for your country submissions, and postings on this online forum on Socio-economic Considerations (SECs) under Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol.

Central to the online forum is the utility of the “Guidance on Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations in the context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.” The voluntary nature of the Socio-economic Considerations (SECs) that induced several fertile exchange of ideas from simplistic to highly sophisticated - - is reflective of the broad coverage of the Guidance Document itself. For parties of the Protocol that have just established their own National Biosafety Frameworks, but are still in the process of regulatory approvals of the LMOs for direct use (for food, feed and processing); field trials, and eventual LMO commercial release, the present Guidance Document on SECs might just serve as a background document and may not be of great assistance in operationalizing their own country specific situations.

Let us take the case of the Philippines which is one of the early developing countries that has commercialized LMOs. It has gone through strict process of science-based risk assessment, and management of its first LMO commercial approval, congruent to the provisions of CPB. As early as December 2002, it approved the commercial release of the MON 810 event, otherwise known as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn. The strict adherence to scientific and evidence-based risk assessment has continued in the Philippines up to the present, in the approval of succeeding LMOs (for commercial release) with single and multiple traits. Risk assessment is also conducted for LMOs used for food, feed, and processing. It must be emphasized that the risk assessment process is compulsory and separate from SECs assessment which is voluntary in nature.

In terms of SECs assessment, several independent socio-economic scientific studies*, using different methodologies were conducted, ex-ante (before) commercialization and ex-post (after) LMO commercialization. Results of these independent studies were used as reference questions sent to proponents, by the regulators and competent national authorities (CNAs) in the decision-making process.

The Philippines SECs assessment process started with the simplistic interpretation of the country’s national goals on food security and alleviation of poverty (30 percent of the Philippine population is below the poverty line). Policy makers in general believed the view that any agricultural technological innovations (including genetic engineering), if useful, should contribute to the sustainability of these national goals. Hence in our early SECs assessment, the quantifiable indicators that reflected the national development goals were: Productivity (Yield), Cost Efficiency, Net Farm Income (Profitability), Trade (Import Substitution) and global competitiveness. 

Today the Philippines is moving on a voluntary mode, for the inclusion of social, economic, ethical and cultural considerations (SEECs) related to choice, cultural aspects, social cohesion, and minority right among adoptors of GM crops.

The Philippine early experience on SECs in assessing the impact of LMOs on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity preceded the 2019 “Guidance on the Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations on the context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.” Therefore, in its present context the document was not used by the Philippines.

However, the principles and the overall assessment process provided by the Guidance Document are well appreciated. On hindsight, they validate the difficulty of the Philippine early experience in the socio-economic impact assessment of LMOs.

Submitted by:

Dr. Leonardo A. Gonzales
Member, Department of Science and Technology, Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC)

*Selected scientific studies:

1. Gonzales, L.A. 2002. Likely Transcendental Effects of Agri-biotechnology: The Case of Bt Hybrid Corn in the Philippines.

2. JM Yorobe, Jr. & Cesar Quicoy .2006. Economic Impact of Bt Corn in the Philippines. Phil Agric Science

3. Gonzales, L.A. 2007. The Socio-economic Impact of Roundup Ready Corn and Corn with Stacked Gene on Small Farmers in the Philippines: An Ex-ante Analysis

4. JM Yorobe, Jr and Melinda Smale. 2012. Impact of Bt Maize on Smallholder Income in the Philippines. Agbioforum

5. Gonzales, L.A. CD Elca, B.C. Paningbatan, R.M. Umali, A.A. Gonzales and J.L.C. Ignacio, 2012. Micro and Macro Impacts of Technological Change; The GM (BA) Corn Experience.

6. Miladis M. Afidchao, CM Musters, Ada Wossink, Orlando Balderama, Geert R. de Snoo. 2014. Analyzing the Farm Level Economic Impact of GM Corn in the Philippines. NJAS, Wageninger Journal of Life Sciences
posted on 2019-09-18 10:21 UTC by Dr. Leonardo Gonzales, Philippines
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9943]
The nature of the “Guidance on Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations in the context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety” is voluntary and any socio and economic measure adopted by a Party to the Cartagena Protocol to implement its obligations should be intrinsically connected to impacts of specific LMOs to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Possible considerations a Party decides to address in their regulatory processes towards biosafety of LMOs that has no correlation to damages to biodiversity should not, as clearly stated at the mandate brought by Article 26, be agreed and promoted based on a Decision from the Parties.

In other words, if a Party decides to disapprove an LMO based on ethical or religious grounds, this measure should not arise from a regulation or be based on a decision, even if it is voluntary, from the Cartagena Protocol. I would stress, for the sake of legality, the need to define a clear nexus between impacts to biodiversity to the SEC measure enacted.

The links with scientific grounds, as required at the SPS Agreement and the Codex Alimentarius, for instance, is a second requisite to be met as well.

In this regard, I would like to support Piet van der Meer´s message, at thread #9934, that the Guidance will only be useful and helpful if it defines clear “triggers” to motivate a SEC measure. Otherwise, any reason will become a SEC even if it does not have any relation to biodiversity impacts.

I would take as an example, the troubled relationship between GMOs and beekeeping as stated by Dr Michelle Chauvet, from Mexico on thread #9924. The impacts of pesticides and/or monocultures systems over bees and other issues, has no strict, direct and effective correlation to the fact that the soybean is GM. A conventional soybean could cause impacts if best practices are not in place.

It is not the GM nature of the soy that causes the impact. It is a social/environmental concern that can be relevant but are not addressed at the Cartagena Protocol. Again, Article 26 makes this extremely clear.

If the Guidance is supposed to help Parties, it should narrow its scope and work with objective and implementable measures that would allow Parties to avoid damages of LMO to biodiversity. Otherwise, the Guidance will become a reference decision to allow measures that will raise non-tariff barriers to trade.

To close, I would like to quote the chapeau of Decision 9/14: “Acknowledging that nothing contained in the voluntary “Guidance on the Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations in the Context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety” can be interpreted or used to support non-tariff barriers to trade, or to justify breaches of international human rights law obligations, in particular of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities,”.
posted on 2019-09-19 20:43 UTC by Mr. Rodrigo C A Lima, Agroicone Ltd
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9944]
In  Approval of GM Crops :Socio-economic Considerations in Developing Countries by
Sachin Chaturvedi, Krishna Ravi Srinivas, Reji K Joseph, Pallavi Singh
SPECIAL ARTICLE Economic & Political  Weekly EPW  june 9, 2012 vol xlviI no 23
we have discussed some of these issues and also on SECs at different stages in life cycle of LMO.It can be downloaded from

Krishna Ravi Srinivas
posted on 2019-09-20 05:21 UTC by Dr. Krishna Ravi Srinivas, India
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9957]
I agree with Mr. Rodrigo C A Lima (#9943) that “the impacts of pesticides and/or monocultures systems over bees and other issues, has no strict, direct and effective correlation to the fact that the soybean is GM. A conventional soybean could cause impacts if best practices are not in place.” But the issue here is the presence of transgenic pollen that disturbs the organic honey market, so co-existence of genetically modified soy farmers with beekeepers is impossible. Therefore if it is a matter of Art. 26 because is affecting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity from the local communities.

I take this opportunity to comment on the guide. The “Guidance on Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations in the context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety” presents at the beginning 9 principles to take into account. One of them is about public participation, which is one of the concerns expressed in the comment (# 9950) also from Mexico. However, to move to the stages they do not resume. From my point of view it should be operationalized in such a way that there were observable variables that would allow these principles to be put into practice.

And finally, I consider that the Guide gives a preponderant role to lawyers and regulators, when it should be an interdisciplinary work where social scientists are taken into account.
posted on 2019-09-20 19:40 UTC by Dr. Michelle Chauvet, Mexico
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9946]
I want to pinpoint that sometimes socioeconomic considerations are not seen as a different process from risk assessment and it all depend on the protection goal that you choose in setting up the context and the scope of risk assessment and the problem formulation step.

Annex 1 of the convention on biological diverity highlights what are the components of biological diversity that are important for its conservation and sustainable use and are normally seen as protection goals.  these are namely
"1. Ecosystems and habitats: containing high diversity, large numbers of endemic or threatened species, or wilderness; required by migratory species; of social, economic, cultural or scientific importance; or, which are representative, unique or associated with key evolutionary or other biological processes;
2. Species and communities which are: threatened; wild relatives of domesticated or cultivated species; of medicinal, agricultural or other economic value; or social, scientific or cultural importance; or importance for research into the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, such as indicator species; and
3. Described genomes and genes of social, scientific or economic importance."

it is quite clear that some protection goals have economic, social and even ethical aspects. So based on those protection goals, if you choose the null hypthesis in formulating your risk assessment problem: you can clearly see that both risk assessment and socioeconomic considerations processes are not really that far appart from each other.

(edited on 2019-09-20 07:39 UTC by Ossama AbdelKawy)
posted on 2019-09-20 07:39 UTC by Prof Ossama AbdelKawy, Seychelles
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9956]
Dear all

Many thanks to all participants for the useful and insightful comments! (And still 3 hours to go!)

As I think we’re all aware, the outcomes of the discussions will be made available for review by the meeting of the AHTEG in Vienna, Austria later this year. Together with the submissions made, the AHTEG will review the outcomes of the discussions and use this information to supplement the voluntary Guidance.

The outcomes of the process will be considered by the meeting of the Parties, at its tenth meeting.

Thanks again!

Ben (co-rapporteur)
posted on 2019-09-20 19:02 UTC by Mr. Ben David Durham, South Africa
RE: Opening of Forum 3 [#9959]
Article 26 is not read in isolation but in the context of the overall Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity, as highlighted by Ossama.

Article 26(1) covers a decision on import under the Protocol or under a Party’s domestic measures implementing the Protocol. Such national measures are, inter alia, those dealing with import; risk assessment and risk management; unintentional transboundary movements of LMOs and emergency measures; handling, transport, packaging and identification; capacity building; public awareness and participation; and transboundary movements of LMOs between Parties and non-Parties. Underlying these measures is the implementation of the precautionary approach.

Article 2(4) of the Protocol preserves the right for Parties to adopt protective measures that go beyond the agreed minimum standard of the Protocol. It is of course a Party's sovereign right to determine what this should be, including in relation to socioeconomic considerations, so long as it is consistent with the objective and the provisions of the Protocol and in accordance with other obligations under international law. While important for Parties to the Protocol that are also WTO members, the WTO Agreements are not the only international legal instruments to which this provision applies. Indeed, Principle 1 of the “Guidance on the Assessment of Socio-Economic Considerations in the Context of Article 26 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety” reiterates this point, and also highlights that these include, “inter alia, trade agreements, environmental agreements and human rights agreements.”

The spectre of “trade obligations violations” cannot and should not prevent Parties from dealing with urgent issues that impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the human societies that are affected as a result. Neither does the Protocol preclude cultural and ethical considerations. It is this work that will contribute to the efforts to make the various regimes – environment, health, trade and human rights – truly compatible.

kind regards
Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
posted on 2019-09-20 20:51 UTC by Ms. Li Ching Lim, Third World Network