EU biotech approval process troubles U.S. groups

European Commission moves to amend its biotech approval process to allow individual states right to reject approved traits.

The European Commission has proposed to amend its approval process for biotechnology traits to allow individual member states to opt out of the import of products containing those traits, even though such traits have been fully approved by EU food safety officials.

A statement from House Agriculture Committee chairman Mike Conaway (R., Texas) said the process ignores science-based safety and environmental determinations made by the European Union and allows for an “opt out” of imports of products of biotechnology.

The announcement “ignores the scientific consensus regarding the safety of these products and flies in the face of existing trade agreements” said Conaway. “At a time when Europe and the United States are engaged in negotiations to expand market opportunities for producers on both continents, this decision raises serious questions regarding Europe’s commitment to these negotiations.”

The American Soybean Assn. added that it is bad for the EU’s own livestock producers and feed industries, will make those industries less competitive, and is bad for EU consumers who ultimately will pay more for the meat they put on their tables.

 ASA vice president and Delaware farmer Richard Wilkins said, “The EU feed and livestock industries have reacted very negatively to the EU Commission’s action, warning that it would make livestock production uncompetitive and disrupt trade into and within the EU market. Currently, the EU feed industry imports 75% of the soymeal it requires for livestock uses.”

Wilkins also expressed strong concerns about the compatibility of the action by the Commission with the EU’s existing international trade obligations as well as the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the United States and EU.

“The World Trade Organization has ruled against the EU for not operating a timely and science-based approval process, and today’s decision would create new WTO violations by allowing member states to restrict these imports based on something as trivial as political or popular whims. It also runs completely contrary to the very spirit of eliminating barriers to US-EU trade under the TTIP. We believe this proposal, if finalized, would negatively impact U.S. soy trade with the EU,” Wilkins stated.

“What is particularly troubling about this proposal is that it hardly squares with the EU’s goal of presenting one coordinated economic face to the rest of the world,” added Wilkins. “Instead of standing with science, with modern agriculture, and with the realities of the global economy, the EU has divided itself with this proposal between those member states that choose to recognize the promise and potential of biotechnology to provide for their citizens, and those that do not.”

The proposal now must be adopted by the 28 EU member states and the EU parliament through the co-decision process. A timeline for that has not been set.

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