How to include socio-economic considerations in decision-making on agricultural biotechnology? Two models from Kenya and South Africa

Agriculture and Human Values 36 (4):669-684 (2019)
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Abstract

This article contributes to the debate about how regulatory science for agricultural technologies can be ‘opened up’ for a more diverse set of concerns and knowledges. The article focuses on the regulation of ‘socio-economic considerations’ for genetically modified organisms. While numerous countries have declared their intent to include these considerations in biotechnology decision-making, it is currently unclear both what counts as a socio-economic consideration and how such considerations should be assessed. This article provides greater clarity about how socio-economic considerations can be included in regulations by drawing upon the experience of two countries whose efforts in this field are particularly advanced: Kenya and South Africa. Based on extensive fieldwork, this article identifies the contours of an emerging regulatory regime by presenting two practice-based models for including socio-economic considerations in biotechnology decision-making. Whereas Kenya has taken a bottom-up process prior to assessing the first technologies and strongly emphasises scientific expertise, South Africa has instead established regulatory standards in an ad hoc fashion on a case-to-case basis, with a less prominent role for scientific evidence. The discussion of the distinct characteristics and tensions of both models provides insight into two potential pathways for including socio-economic considerations in the regulation of agricultural technologies.

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