The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)
Biosafety Risk Assessment in Centers of Origin of Crop Genetic Resources: Economic and Empirical Issues
M. Eric Van Dusen, UC Davis
Important input from economic models of farmer behavior are needed to inform the biosafety risk assessment process. Biosafety regulation will face a host of new and unique issues that have not been faced by previous regulation written for developed countries which are not the centers of origin for any important crop relatives. Biosafety regulations and the regulatory process has been mostly copied from developed country institutions with little adaptation to developing country conditions. However countries with high levels of genetic diversity in crops and wild relatives may have more to protect in looking at a biosafety assessment for release into the environment. Furthermore some of the future technologies have the possibilities of major impacts for farmers in developing countries including in the centers of origin. In fact the socio-economic criterion was a major point of debate in the recent negotiations for the biosafety protocol. While the full scope of socio-economic implications of GMO's is not the focus of this paper, it will instead focus on methods and empirical examples appropriate to risk assessment.
The data needed for a risk assessment requires genetic data, biological and ecological knowledge of the crop and its environment, and finally economic information on the management of the crop and its seed by farmers. These models must focus on the behavior of farmers with respect to the local crop genetic resources (CGR). This paper focuses on the methodological and empirical issues for economic input into biosafety assessment. A synthesis of previous studies focusing on farmer seed systems, adoption patterns, and farmer management of CGR is used to quantitatively illustrate the issues. Finally, original primary survey data from Mexico will be used to provide examples of quantitative economic input to possible risk assessment.
Local CGR have significant environmental and public good values that are often undervalued by farmers, and that may be a focus of conservation. In addition, the new challenges from transgenic crop technologies create questions that require knowledge of seed exchange and seed systems, inputs and cultural practices, and market relationships for the farm households. Relevant economic questions also include: how will biosafety affect adoption and possibilities for adoptions, and how will local economic contexts affect the possibilities for enforcement of biosafety regulation.
The paper will draw empirical examples for modeling the possible effects of GMOs on in situ crop genetic resources in ways that point to the integration of biological sciences with economic information. The two principal areas covered are: Farmer practices that influence wild and cultivated interactions, 1) knowledge of possible behavior of inter-planting and toleration of wild relatives, 2)mapping, database of regions and intensity of practices. Farmer practices concerning the relationship of traditional and modern varieties 1)proximity of plantings 2)recycling of seeds 3) mixing of seeds.