ASA Urges Government to Defend the Value of Biotechnology

first_imgAmerican Soybean Association (ASA) President Marc Curtis today presented the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee with a list of suggestions on what the Federal government can do to strengthen the commercial environment for biotechnology crops and products. During testimony before the Committee, Curtis, a producer from Leland, Miss., highlighted benefits offered by biotechnology crops, such as the availability of more nutritious foods to consumers and others.Curtis pointed out that producers are concerned that actions in the European Union (EU), Japan and elsewhere may jeopardize U.S. soybean and soy product exports.”We have seen the tactics of activist groups in the EU shift from failed attempts to raise fears of the environmental effects of biotech crops to linkages with food safety concerns and the right of consumers to know whether biotech ingredients are in their food,” Curtis said. “This linkage led the EU to require labeling of biotech products which, in turn, triggered decisions by leading food manufacturers in several EU countries to take soy out of food product formulations, and by retailers to take these products off grocery store shelves.”As a result, U.S. soybean growers have lost sales in Europe. In Japan, a labeling law approved this year could affect up to 700,000 metric tons of soybeans shipped in bulk for the tofu market.”The good news is that Japanese buyers are lining up Identity Preserved contracts with U.S. farmers to supply non-biotech soybeans,” Curtis said. “Unlike the Europeans, the Japanese appear willing to pay a premium to identify and preserve non-biotech crops through the production and marketing system.”Although U.S. acceptance of biotechnology crops appears solid, Curtis expressed concern that decisions not to use biotechnology ingredients by major food or beverage companies in the United States could dampen consumer opinion. To support biotechnology domestically and overseas, Curtis listed several suggestions for Congress:The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies should defend the biotechnology review process. While no one expects the agencies to be advocates for the technology, they should serve as credible spokespersons on the safety and science behind biotechnology.It is essential that the next World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement include improved rules to facilitate biotech trade and ensure science-based reviews. The Administration has not yet announced how it intends to address biotech issues in the upcoming round of WTO negotiations that start in November. Congress should insist on knowing details of the U.S. negotiating position.U.S. officials involved in developing a biotech labeling policy under the auspices of the Codex Alimentarius Commission should be encouraged to pursue voluntary guidelines for non-biotech claims, as is done for labels for organic products.The United States should support funding to increase capacity building for biotech regulatory activity in developing countries.Congress should consider making the destruction of biotech field trials a Federal crime, with strong punishment and penalties.The Agriculture Committee should spearhead efforts by Congress to urge all sectors of the U.S. food chain—including farmers, processors, merchandisers, exporters, food manufacturers, seed companies, and technology providers—to become more active in educational and support initiatives. They also need to coordinate their efforts, and establish close and ongoing working relationships with the Administration and with Executive Branch agencies with oversight responsibilities for biotech issues.last_img