Feed and oilseeds lobby frustrated with EU lag in GM soybean trait approval

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

EU and US industry representatives call on Commission to approve GM soybeans Image credit: © istock.com/Vladimir Cetinski
EU and US industry representatives call on Commission to approve GM soybeans Image credit: © istock.com/Vladimir Cetinski

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The EU feed, cereals and oilseeds trade representatives are urging the EU Commission to approve three GM soybean traits, claiming the delay in their final authorization could cause trade disruption.

In a letter​sent to Jean-Claude Juncker, Commission president, last week, FEFAC, COCERAL, FEDIOL argued the EU executive has failed over the preceding five months to provide sound and scientifically justified reasons for the ongoing delay in approval of the traits, which tolerate the herbicide, glyphosate. 

The three products, MON87705 x MON89788, MON87708 x MON89788 and FG72, they continued, have been awaiting the final stage of the EU authorization for import, food and feed uses and processing since the vote in the Appeal Committee on 11 January 2016.  

This step usually only takes only one month, noted the trade groups. 

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) deemed the three GM products safe back in 2015. 

“The authorisation of these GM traits has now become critical to ensure the viability of food and feed supplies into the EU while providing the necessary legal certainty to business operators,”​ said the organizations. 

FEFAC, COCERAL, and FEDIOL want the Commission to finalise the authorisation procedure for these three events “as a matter of urgency”.​ 

They said the EU cannot afford to ignore the global dimension of commodities trading and supplies: “Some of these GM traits are already authorised and/or commercialised in key exporting regions to the EU. In particular, the import approval of MON87708 x MON89788 in China, coupled with the early planting season in producing countries is very close to causing severe trade disruptions should this GM soybean not be authorised in the EU before the summer break.”​ 

In absence of a rapid final decision, the trade groups warned EU traders may be forced to restrict soy imports due to the increasing risk of finding traces of GM traits yet to be authorised in the EU, which would negatively affect supplies of both GM and non-GM, and “which in return will only further exacerbate the long-persisting market crisis in key EU livestock sectors.”  

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EU and US feed and oilseeds groups warn of trade disruptions © istock.com/ermetico

ADM and Bunge refuse soybeans

In May, ADM and Bunge, two of the largest US grain traders, said they will not accept the soybeans in question, which have been developed by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup Ready 2 Xtend, as they have not been approved by the EU and may put exports at risk.

“The wide-scale planting of traits that are not approved by key importing countries has the potential to seriously diminish the competitiveness of American grain and feed exports, and can result in damages throughout the entire agricultural supply chain,”​ said Jackie Anderson, ADM spokesperson, in a statement provided to us last month. “Because of the importance of exports to American agriculture, ADM’s policy is not to accept any commodity that contains a trait until it is approved in all of our major export markets.”

The company is rejecting the soybean variety because of the importance of the export market to feed crops grown in the US, she said then. All the groups involved in the US export market from farmers to elevators, processors and exporters have to work together to ensure products delivered are acceptable to the intended market, she added.

US soy lobby weighs in

Last week also saw the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) press the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, directly on the same GM trait approvals. 

They noted, ​in a letter dated 7 July, that EU Commission officials had assured both organizations “repeatedly during the months of February and March that there were no concerns over these dossiers and that authorization would proceed in line with the Commission’s pledge to authorize those biotech events that have received positive EFSA opinions within a reasonable timeline.”​ 

Both groups cited a DG Santé communication to USSEC, dated April 12, which said the “draft authorizing decisions are now at the final stage of the procedure."

“To date, this final authorization has not been issued. We are interested to know what this means and when we can expect authorizations to be finalized. 

“In January 2016, the European Ombudsman found​ that between 2012 and 2014 the European Commission was guilty of “maladministration” by taking more than three and a half months before taking a final decision on the authorization of biotech events. By this yardstick the European Commission is once again guilty of maladministration by failing to authorize these three products,”​ wrote the ASA and the USSEC. 

Glyphosate approval

The US soy lobby also referenced, in the letter to Andriukaitis, the fact that several media articles had suggested that unnamed high level Commission officials are linking the timing of the authorization of the three soybean traits to the ongoing regulatory procedure to renew the authorization of glyphosate in the EU.

In February this year, MEPs in the Environment, Public Health and Food safety (ENVI) committee said the Commission should withdraw its authorisations of the use of glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans in food and feed, citing the three traits in question, due to concerns the herbicide was “probably carcinogenic”. 

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1 comment

maladministration? not so

Posted by Laurel,

I give kudos to the EU regulators in NOT being rushed to approve and waiting on the GM and Roundup issue to be better examined.
what part of "the INFORMED public and stock owners DO NOT WANT GMO feed" do America/monsanto NOT understand I wonder?

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