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Lack of EU Regulatory Decision Impacts U.S. Agriculture
USAgNet - 06/20/2016

The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is disappointed by the European Commission's failure to authorize biotech soybean events within a reasonable amount of time and is committed to try to help move the process forward.

USSEC is organizing two separate delegations to Brussels over the next couple of weeks which will have U.S. farmers as well as those from other countries meeting with EU officials to encourage them to move the approval process forward. USSEC staff organized numerous meetings with EU Officials and Industry Members to take place during these Missions.

USSEC Vice Chairman and farmer from Belden, Neb., Jim Miller 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 that our access to new technology will diminish," Miller states. "This would be a bad thing for all growers initially and then all consumers around the world as Ag supplies tighten."

USSEC represents the interests of U.S. soybean producers, commodity shippers, merchandisers, allied agribusinesses and agricultural organizations in international markets. A key focus of the organization is international market access issues such as biotech approvals.

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 approving for import the three soybean traits awaiting final action by the European Commission. These three products, which were 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 approval would proceed in line with the European Commission's pledge to authorize those biotech events, which have received positive EFSA opinions within a reasonable timeline. However, this approval has not yet been received.

In January 2016, the European ombudsman found the European Commission was guilty of "maladministration" from 2012 to 2014 because of the commission's delay in final authorization of biotech events exceeding 3.5 months. By this yardstick, the European Commission is once again guilty of maladministration by failing to authorize these three products.

Engagement with the European Commission is regular and ongoing. On June 7, USSEC once again formally called for the European 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.

Jim Sutter, USSEC CEO, says, "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 (an alliance of growers from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay and the U.S.) in 2015, it was stated that delays in approvals of new biotech events has the potential to cost consumers and producers of soybeans collectively $19 billion over the next ten years.

USSEC is taking the long view in trying to work with industry and governments to improve understanding and approval processes so as to minimize this additional cost in the future. USSEC is focused on trying to help the approval process work so that the efficiencies of the agriculture trading system can be left to operate normally. All parties involved benefit from the lack of potential for trade disruptions due to the presence of unapproved varieties.

Sutter states, "USSEC's goal is to differentiate and build preference for U.S. Soy while also ensuring market access for U.S. Soy. We work with many partners and we talk about the need to provide choice and to allow U.S. growers the freedom to operate. Lots of balls to keep in the air, but a nice upward trend in overall U.S. Soy exports gives us confidence that our efforts are paying off."

On behalf of U.S. soybean farmers and industry, Miller calls for action by the EU Commission. "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 continues, "While the sort of work conducted by USSEC may be frustrating and slow, it is of critical importance and really makes a difference for U.S. soybean farmers and the U.S. Soy industry."

The USSEC connects U.S. soybean farmers with opportunities to improve human nutrition, livestock production and aquaculture. This mission is accomplished with a science-based technical foundation and a global network of partnerships including soybean farmers, exporters, agribusiness and agricultural organizations, researchers and government agencies. USSEC programs are partially funded by the United Soybean Board (USB).

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