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Assessment & Impacts » Socio-Economic

Title: The Socioeconomic Impacts of GMOs on Beekeeping in Spain and Uruguay
Publication date: December 28, 2018
Posting date: December 28, 2018


Dear Friends and Colleagues

The Socioeconomic Impacts of GMOs on Beekeeping in Spain and Uruguay

In September 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled that genetically modified (GM) pollen must be considered as an ingredient of the honey, regardless of whether it is an intended or unintended ingredient. Therefore, honey or pollen supplements containing GM ingredients would be subject to a special authorisation process before sale and would need to be labelled as a food product containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A study explored the socioeconomic impacts on beekeeping in the wake of this ruling in Spain and Uruguay. In examining the relationship between GM crops and beekeepers, the study found that there have been socioecoomic impacts from the contamination of honey from GMOs themselves (in the form of GM pollen), and also from the co-technologies used in collaboration with GM crops (in the form of herbicides like glyphosate), from their role in perpetuating and extending industrial models of agriculture (in the form of large-scale chemically intensive monocultures), and from the attempts to implement regimes (in the forms of restrictions on freedom of movement and operations).

In Spain, significant social anxiety and economic market instability were created by the ECJ ruling. The lack of public registries of information on GM crop locations has disempowered beekeepers and has restricted the locations in which they can operate. In the case of Uruguay, most of the socioeconomic impacts are linked to the large-scale expansion of GM herbicide-tolerant monoculture crops and their associated co-technology (the use of herbicides). This technological package and the institutional arrangements required have resulted in the loss of agricultural biodiversity and recurrent episodes of contamination of beehives by agrochemicals.

The researchers stress that socioeconomic impact assessment must complement risk assessment practices for GMOs and should not only adopt a systems-based perspective towards the technologies but extend beyond a narrow range of affected actors to include all relevant stakeholders in agri/food systems.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
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10400 Penang
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By Rosa Binimelis & Fern Wickson
17 Sept 2018


There has been a persistent conflict over agricultural biotechnology, and existing governance institutions relying on traditional processes of scientific risk assessment have failed to address the sociopolitical dimensions of this disagreement. Although there are demands to incorporate socioeconomic impact (SEI) assessment into regulatory deliberations, these often neglect to look beyond the technology in isolation to also include the networks of relations agricultural biotechnologies require and create. This paper argues that understanding the impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cultivation requires attentiveness to the operational context of the technology as well as a wide range of actors and potential pathways of harm. In order to do this and contribute new empirical research, this paper adopts a system-based perspective and focuses on socioeconomic impacts for a particular actor that is both critically important and highly vulnerable for sustainable agri-food systems: beekeepers. The paper explores the European Court of Justice ruling on the contamination of beehive products with GMOs. It then describes consequent legislative developments and the socioeconomic impacts observed in the wake of this in both Spain and Uruguay. The paper documents the distributive injustice being experienced by beekeepers and highlights the significance of assessing socioeconomic considerations from a systems-based understanding of agriculture and biotechnologies.

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