News & Events
The European Commission’s recent proposal for a national opt-out on biotech approvals is receiving mounting criticism from both biotech opponents and supporters, including calls for the proposal to be withdrawn.
Reports surfaced Thursday that the European Commission is considering a policy that would allow member states to “opt-out” of importing food and feed products containing biotechnology events approved by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).
If enacted, a national opt-out for import approvals of biotechnology-derived products for food and feed uses would be disruptive and counter to international obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report (WASDE) out this week showed a U.S. corn crop for the 2014/2015 marketing year of almost 361 million metric tons (14.2 billion bushels), with yields projected at 10.7 tons per hectare (171 bushels per acre).
The latest yield and production estimates represent a slight reduction from previous estimates, but both remain at historic levels. The 2014/2015 marketing year will again offer another large crop for export.
The United States is the world’s leader in developing and adopting biotechnology to enhance the yield and quality of agricultural commodities. Despite the rapid adoption of genetic modified (GM) crops by farmers in many countries around the world, however, controversies about this technology continue.
To help evaluate the evidence about GM crops, a German report was recently published outlining the results of a meta-analysis of agronomic and economic impacts of GM crops.
Nov. 6 marks an unfortunate anniversary in the complex relationship between the European Union and the United States on agricultural trade: today is the one-year anniversary of the last import approval issued by the EU for a biotech crop. Although it was not recognized at the time, this action a year ago was the beginning of a de facto default on the EU’s World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations – not to mention the EU’s own nominal regulatory requirements.
Eight long-delayed biotech traits awaiting approval by the European Commission will apparently have to wait some more. With a newly elected Commission scheduled to take office on Nov. 1, the Oct. 21 and Oct. 29 meetings of the College of Commissioners were the last scheduled opportunities to take action on biotech approvals before the transition. Failure to act this week punts the issue to the incoming commissioners.
Following its mission to Europe earlier this summer, MAIZALL—The International Maize Alliance—will return to the continent next week to visit with senior officials of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The United States and the European Union (EU) held the sixth round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Negotiations (T-TIP) in Brussels this week. While negotiations have progressed to the exchange of texts in several policy areas, formal discussion on issues such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures, including addressing the EU asynchronous biotechnology approval process are reportedly still in a conceptual stage.
Yes, modern agriculture and biotechnology do have allies in Europe -- just not enough, yet.
This week, MAIZALL, the international maize alliance, brought its message regarding the importance of biotechnology for producers in the Americas to both private sector and governmental stakeholders in Europe. The MAIZALL team also stressed the need for a predictable, science-based regulatory regime in the EU.
“The keys are planning and preparation,” said Jim Stitzlein, manager of market development for Consolidated Grain and Barge. “IP (identity preserved) programs can expand customer choice, but success can only come if there is a willingness to commit, and if interest is expressed early enough to allow coordination across the entire value chain.”
Stitzlein, a U.S. Grains Council delegate and Biotechnology Advisory Team member, noted that CGB for years has promoted both commodity and IP programs and has strengthened its relationships with growers willing to respond to the users’ needs. A recent example is a relatively new IP program created by CGB and its Japanese parent company, Zen-Noh, to source non-GM corn from the United States for Japan Corn Starch, a food manufacturer. The first shipments left Gulf ports in May.