The American Soybean Association says the European Union’s heavy-handed policies on biotech soybeans, as well as inaccurate characterization of biodiesel by the Renewable Energy Directive, have contributed to a 70% drop in total soybean export quantity and a 44% decrease in soybean export value to the EU over the last 14 years. That was the message sent to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk who wants to improve the nation’s trade relationship with the European Union as part of the recently-formed U.S.-EU High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth.
According to ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb., as a direct result of more than a decade of discriminatory biotech traceability and labeling practices, America’s soybean producers have lost a significant portion of what was a viable and thriving export market.
"With a Renewable Energy Directive that omits biodiesel based on inaccurate information and arbitrary standards, the remainder of that export market is threatened," Wellman said.
In its comments, ASA points out that multiple EU policies hinder the importation and use of biotech crops from the United States, including delays in approvals of new biotech traits, despite positive assessments by the European Food Safety Authority; commercially infeasible requirements on biotech content in food products under EU Traceability and Labeling Regulations; state-by-state restrictions on biotech imports; and application of National Seed Catalog and Coexistence requirements to planting of biotech crops by certain EU member states.
During the ASA's Biotech Working Group meeting in Washington, D.C. last week they also discussed the new effort on the part of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to streamline the approval process of new biotech traits. Michael Gregoire, deputy administrator for APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulatory Services Program, spoke on his agency’s initiative to increase efficiencies in the regulatory review process.
Wellman says to hear that APHIS is invested in making the approvals process more efficient is encouraging to both farmers and to biotech innovators. He says the soybean industry and its farmers have much to gain from biotech innovations that increase yield, improve nutrition, resist disease, offer competition and alternatives in the marketplace, and help in managing weed resistance issues, and are lucky to have a seemingly continuous pipeline of these innovations awaiting approval.