The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) recently expressed disappointment in the European Commission’s failure to authorize biotech soybean events within a reasonable amount of time, adding that it is committed to helping advance the process.
USSEC has organized two separate delegations to Brussels, Belgium, over the next couple of weeks to help encourage European Union officials to move the approval process forward. U.S. farmers, as well as farmers from other countries, will attend numerous meetings with EU officials and industry members during the trade missions.
USSEC vice chairman and Belden, Neb., farmer Jim Miller said he is counting on the delegations to be successful.
“My fellow farmers and I need access to the latest technology in order to produce as efficiently as possible to feed the growing world’s demand. I’m worried that if approval is made difficult by governments like the EU, our access to new technology will diminish,” Miller said. “This would be a bad thing for all growers initially and then all consumers around the world as ag supplies tighten.”
Since January 2016, USSEC has been very active on behalf of the U.S. soy industry to encourage appropriate European officials to demonstrate their functional regulatory procedures by granting import approval for the three soybean traits awaiting final action by the European Commission. The three products, developed by Bayer and Monsanto, have successfully moved through all required evaluations and have received a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as completed the committee process within the European Commission.
Over the past five months, USSEC has been told by representatives of the European Commission that draft authorizing decisions are at the final stage of the procedure and that approval would proceed in line with the European Commission’s pledge to authorize the biotech events. However, this approval has not yet been received.
“The unexpected delay in final authorizations has created uncertainty, disruption and cost for the U.S. soy industry. In order to avoid greater interference in trade, the authorizations must occur very soon,” Miller said in calling for action by the European Commission.
In January 2016, the European ombudsman found the European Commission guilty of “maladministration” from 2012 to 2014 because of the commission’s delay in granting final authorization of biotech events exceeding 3.5 months. By this measurement, the European Commission is once again guilty of maladministration by failing to authorize these three products, USSEC noted.
Engagement with the European Commission is regular and ongoing. On June 7, USSEC once again formally called for the commission to issue final authorization for the soybean traits in a letter sent to leaders there. This was the third such written communication conducted this spring.
USSEC chief executive officer Jim Sutter said, “Monitoring all of the issues in this space is time consuming but critical. We need to stick to our principles and continue to communicate for as long as it takes.”
In a white paper developed by USSEC and the other members of the International Soy Growers Alliance in 2015, it was stated that delays in approvals of new biotech events have the potential to cost consumers and producers of soybeans $19 billion collectively over the next 10 years.