Socio-economic considerations are included in the regulatory frameworks on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) of many countries. This is a reflection of an increasing interest in and recognition of the necessity to consider a broader range of issues when conducting a GMO risk assessment. At the same time, there are discussions about how socio-economic considerations can be identified and how their assessment can be carried out. To provide an understanding of the advances achieved so far, we describe the state of the art of existing biosafety institutional frameworks, legislation and policies with provisions on socio-economic considerations. We analyse the scope of the socio-economic considerations that have been included, the methodological options taken and the role of participatory processes and stakeholders involvement in the GMO-related decision-making. Since many of the countries that have legislation for assessing socio-economic considerations lack implementation experience, we provide an analysis of how implementation has evolved in Norway with the intention to illustrate that the inclusion of socio-economic considerations might be based on a learning process. Norway was the first country to include broader issues in its GMO assessment process, and is at present one of the countries with the most experience on implementation of these issues. Finally, we emphasise that there is a great need for training on how to perform assessments of socio-economic considerations, as well as reflection on possible ways for inclusion of participatory processes.
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