U.S. Farmers In EU Stress Need For Predictable Biotech Regulatory System

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) combined forces this week for a series of meetings in Brussels to raise concerns about delays in approvals for soybean and corn biotech events and exhorting the need for a predictable, transparent and science-based regulatory system in the European Union.

Dean Taylor, a USGC delegate from the Iowa Corn Growers Association and leader of the USGC Biotechnology Advisory Team, partnered with Nebraska soybean farmer and USSEC Vice Chairman Jim Miller in meetings with European Parliament members, European Commission officials and European Food and Feed Chain representatives.

Both farmers described their experiences using biotechnology and other innovative technologies, sharing how adopting these tools has helped them to improve their economic and environmental sustainability. They both told the European stakeholders they met that they will continue to readily adopt and take advantage of new events as they are approved in the United States and in other key markets with workable and functioning regulatory systems.

Creating an opportunity for U.S. farmers to share these positions directly is critical to forward movement in the European market, with the EU having delayed final approval of three soybean events and one corn event that have already gone through the risk assessment and risk management processes but have still not cleared the final hurdle by the European Commission.

The European Parliament has complicated this process further by voting on resolutions of disapproval for events that have been cleared for final approval. While non-binding, this action adds further uncertainty to the biotech approval process.

"The uncertainty created by the EU's unpredictable regulatory system keeps farmers globally from adopting the best new technology to produce the corn and soybeans customers need," Taylor said. "It also creates trade barriers that prevent willing feed and livestock users in the European Union from importing U.S. corn and soybeans, which doesn't benefit anyone and ultimately raises costs for EU consumers."

In meetings with European Commission departments covering agriculture, trade and health, both USGC and USSEC representatives reiterated they are not seeking to change the EU's biotech approval laws and regulations or reduce existing levels of protection, but are seeking improvements to the EU approval system to bring it in line with EU-legislated timelines as well as a more practical approach to situations of low-level presence of yet-unapproved traits in grain shipments to the EU.

"Our meetings this week were a unique opportunity to not just make the case for the pending events to be approved, but to provide an on-the-ground perspective on why biotechnology works for the entire ag value chain," Taylor said.

The Council and USSEC shared the findings of these meetings with stakeholders who make up the European Feed and Food Chain and agreed on the need for continued collaboration and communication on these critical policy issues.