ASA Urges EU to Find Solution on Biotech Traits

US - American Soybean Assocation is calling on the European Commission to find a practical solution for the low-level presence of biotech traits not yet approved in the EU.
calendar icon 11 July 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The American Soybean Association (ASA) this week urged the European Commission to find a workable and commercially viable solution to the EU’s zero tolerance for the low level presence of EU-unapproved biotech events. European livestock and feed industries, along with US growers, have been advocating a workable solution due to the EU’s slow and politically influenced biotech approval process that results in European biotech reviews and approvals taking over twice as long as science-based reviews and approvals in the rest of the world, including the United States.

The ASA and European feed and livestock industries believe a partial practical solution to this problem is for the EU to permit the low level presence of a biotech trait that has undergone regulatory review and received safety clearances in the country of export. The other part of the solution is for the EU to greatly improve the timeliness of its approval system and ensure that its approval process is wholly science-based. The EU is the fourth largest export market for U.S. soybeans, representing sales of more than $1 billion in 2007. To avoid disruption of trade and resulting negative impacts on EU livestock production, ASA is advocating practical and sensible tolerance level solutions be found to ensure that there are no unwarranted barriers to trade.

Since 1994, ASA has carried out numerous missions to the EU on biotechnology issues. In the course of the past six months, ASA has held many meetings in the EU on the asynchronous approvals and zero tolerance issues. In almost all of these meetings, ASA has been asked about zero tolerances (and in particular very low-level tolerances such as 0.1 per cent) by concerned EU industries from the feed and farming sectors.

Urgent need for a sensible solution to the wholly impractical zero tolerance law
John Hoffman, ASA President

In a letter to Paola Testori Coggi (Deputy Director General, DG SANCO, European Commission), ASA President John Hoffman, a soybean producer from Waterloo, Iowa, said, "We have made it very clear that ASA views low level tolerances of 0.1 per cent as wholly impractical for commodity soybean crop production and imports. Given the complex nature of commodity production and exportation involving millions of metric tons of soybeans grown by hundreds of thousands of growers on millions of acres/hectares, a tolerance of 5 per cent should be a minimum starting point."

Mr Hoffman also pointed out that the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) standards for certified planting seed are set a 99 per cent purity level. These rigorous OECD standards have been developed with the strong participation of EU Member State governments and industry to apply to planting seeds, not general commodity production. As such, the required purity standards for commodity imports should be lower (i.e., less than 99 per cent purity) than that which the OECD, European governments, and industry have determined should apply to planting seeds.

"US soybean growers have exported soybeans to Europe for more than 50 years and want to continue to do so," Mr Hoffman said. However, both we and our European customers in the feed and farm sectors recognize the urgent need for a sensible solution to the wholly impractical zero tolerance law. This is especially crucial given the increasing number of biotech soybean events that have either gained authorization from functioning regulatory systems in many other countries or are very close to commercialization." Source: American Soybean Association
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