When contemplating GM technology related innovation and regulation here at Biosafety SA, we prefer to think of it in a context of “sustainability”, rather than “biosafety” only. This is based on the fact that the South African regulatory framework also considers the so called socio-economic aspects of GMOs when determining the appropriateness of a particular GMO for the local market and these are clearly not (bio) safety related. In addition, we consider “socio-economic” too wide a concept to effectively analyse and manage and therefore divide it into “socio-political” and “economic” aspects.
Considering the economic feasibility of a product is a well-developed discipline in its own right and many studies focusing on the “socio-economics” of GMOs, actually focus predominantly on these economic impacts only. Socio-political issues, in contrast, are often much more difficult to define, but include aspects associated with governance, regulation, policy, social impact, ethics, etc.
When a GMO product has no negative health (food safety) or environmental impacts it is SAFE, when it makes economic and social sense and the required governance systems are in place to facilitate its commercialisation it is VIABLE and when it adheres to all these prerequisites it is SUSTAINABLE.
Based on this point of departure and a philosophy that all these aspects should be considered from very early on in the innovation process to ensure you end with a sustainable product, we have developed an integrated, conceptual framework to facilitate the development of sustainable GM products. In principle it highlights the wide range of issues that GM product developers should proactively consider and address to ensure they end up with a sustainable product.