After the European Commission had just proposed to let European Union (EU) states opt out of the import of food and feed containing biotechnology traits, the body seems to have reversed course a bit and approved 17 biotechnology traits for import. The news was met with guarded optimism from the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) First Vice President Richard Wilkins, a soybean farmer from Greenwood, Delaware, who was glad to see the traits include the Plenish and Vistive Gold high-oleic soybean varieties, as well as dicamba-tolerant and omega-3 soybeans.
“On the one hand, we’re happy to see these traits finally receive Commission approval after years of delay. The 17 products approved by the European Commission today have been pending for 69 months on average despite EU laws and regulations that foresee an 18-month time period for a decision. Whenever our technology partners bring a new trait to market, farmers in the U.S. aren’t able to fully recognize the benefits of products with those traits until they are accepted in all of our key export markets, so this is a big, big step forward. We are especially pleased with the announcement with regard to high-oleic soybeans, which will give food processors the frying and baking qualities they need in an oil without the need for partial hydrogenation which produces trans fats. Additionally, dicamba-tolerant soybeans will give soybean farmers another tool to prevent and manage weed resistance in their fields.
“On the other hand, however, this announcement means little if the EU persists in its current unscientific and delayed approval process for new varieties developed through biotechnology. Today more than 40 additional GM applications for import, submitted by various companies, remain pending in the EU system.”
Wilkins added that opting-out of a fully approved, safe GM product is a giant step backwards and would be in clear violation of the EU’s obligations under the World Trade Organization and would negatively impact U.S. soy exports to Europe.