first_imgThe American Soybean Association (ASA) supports the recent decision by the United States government to give the European Union (EU) more time to implement a science-based approval system for biotech-derived agricultural products, but warns of dire consequences for European livestock industries if the EU doesn’t speed up its approval process.”ASA supports the decision of U.S. trade officials to temporarily suspend action to withdraw concessions for the failures of the European Union to bring its biotech approval process into compliance with the WTO panel ruling,” said ASA First Vice President Johnny Dodson, a soybean producer from Halls, Tenn., who is the Chair of ASA’s Biotechnology Working Group.In May 2003, the United States filed a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the EU’s failure to implement a timely, science-based approval system for food and feed products enhanced through biotechnology. Numerous other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay joined the United States in the complaint because they also want to ensure that science-based determinations are applied to regulatory decisions. On September 29, 2006, the WTO ruled the EU had failed to meet its WTO obligations of implementing a timely, science-based system for the approval of biotech-enhanced agricultural products. The decision finalized a preliminary WTO ruling made in February 2006.”ASA has been in close contact with the U.S. Trade Representative urging this course of action,” Dodson said. “This is only a temporary suspension to allow the EU to demonstrate through action that it is making its system timely, and that decisions are being made on the basis of science, not politics.”The continuing failure of the EU to bring its biotech approval system into compliance not only will result in massive retaliation on EU exports to the U.S. market, but also will result in devastating consequences for the EU livestock and feed industries that are dependent on imported oilseeds and feedstuffs.The EU’s own agriculture department (DG Agriculture) produced a report in July 2007 that warned of the potential damage to the EU livestock and poultry industries unless its biotech approval process is speeded up. Numerous EU stakeholders, such as FEFAC, the European feed association, have campaigned strongly on this issue, pointing out the damage that could be caused if the EU is legally barred from importing crops already approved elsewhere but have not received European approval.”We hope the EU will respond quickly and positively to this latest gesture from the United States,” Dodson said.Currently, Bayer’s LibertyLink® soybean (LLS) and Monsanto’s Roundup RReady2Yield™ (RR2Y) soybean have been fully approved for cultivation in the U.S., and are going through the EU approval process. These soybean varieties, along with Pioneer’s Optimum® GAT® soybean (also going through the EU approval system) are targeted for commercialization in the U.S. in the spring of 2009.”These three varieties are only the start,” Dodson said. “Over the next 10 years or so there are likely to be more than 20 other varieties coming forward for commercialization. To avoid disruption of trade and resulting negative impacts on EU livestock production, the EU and its Member States need to provide timely and science-based approval of these soybean events.”The EU process is at least a year behind the U.S. and many other countries, such as China and Japan. It is an intolerable situation that must be rectified to allow trade to continue uninterrupted. So far, despite tremendous efforts by the European feed industry, farmers, the biotechnology industry and U.S. soybean growers, Europe’s politicians have yet to wake up and see the huge crisis developing around them.”Applications for both RR2Y and LLS in other major markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Mexico and others either already have been approved by regulatory authorities or are moving ahead in a timely manner,” Dodson said. “It is the EU process that is out of step with the rest of the world, and as such, does a disservice not only to the EU farm industry, but also to consumers who can scarcely be blamed for being confused when the EU’s own scientists say a product is safe, but politicians hesitate over whether or not to agree with the scientific assessment.”With a full pipeline of new soybean events making their way toward commercialization over the coming years, ASA formed a Biotech Working Group in 2007 to provide a forum for U.S. soybean organizations to consult with biotechnology companies on their commercialization, domestic and international regulatory approvals status, and stewardship plans. ASA’s goals are to bring these new soy technologies to farmers just as quickly as possible, while at the same time safeguarding important export markets. To gain support among industry stakeholders, ASA has also been conducting advocacy missions to the EU to educate and motivate key livestock, feed industry, EU and Member State officials about the soy events now being developed.”Some EU officials and Member States are finally beginning to speak out publicly against the EU’s ill-functioning biotech approval system,” Dodson said. “ASA’s Biotech Working Group is serving an important function because we are finding stakeholders and officials that are very unaware of the issue and its possible consequences for the European feed and livestock industries. They have expressed appreciation for the briefings and asked for the continued support of U.S. soybean growers.”last_img