Analysis for biotechnology innovations using Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Meeting the food needs of the world’s growing population while reducing poverty and protecting the environment is a major global challenge. Genetically modified crops appear to provide a promising option to deal with this challenge. However there is a need to make strategic decisions on how to spend limited agricultural research funds in order to achieve a maximum impact with regard to finding sustainable solutions to end hunger and poverty. In international development institutions, there is growing interest in the potential use of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as part of a research based Environmental Management System (EMS) to promote mainstreaming of environmental considerations in policy development. SEA was developed as an approach to integrate environmental considerations at a policy level, where alternatives environmental policies can be evaluated. In this paper, we propose using SEA in a policy research and priority setting process regarding new technologies, taking the development of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as an example. We propose that this method would be a useful tool for the international agricultural research centers of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), streamlining business processes, strengthening accountability, sharpening the research agenda it supports, fostering broader partnerships, and increasing the relevance and impact of CGIAR research in achieving international development goals. Currently international law requires only Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) of specific biotechnology projects. The incorporation of environmental considerations only at the level of specific projects precludes the adoption of alternative environmental policies. In this review, we outline an SEA approach currently being considered at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for use in evaluating biotechnology policies. SEA may be a useful tool to inform the evaluation of biotechnology policies and priorities by taking account of information on the economic, social, and environmental benefits, cost and risks of adopting those policies.

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EPTD Discussion Paper

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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