As United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk moves to consider ways to improve the nation’s trade relationship with the European Union (EU) as part of the recently-formed U.S.-EU High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, the American Soybean Association (ASA) submitted formal comments reminding the ambassador that the EU’s heavy-handed policies on biotech soybeans, as well as inaccurate characterization of biodiesel by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), have contributed to a 70 percent drop in total soybean export quantity and a 44 percent decrease in soybean export value to the EU over the last 14 years.
“As a direct result of more than a decade of discriminatory biotech traceability and labeling practices, America’s soybean producers have lost a significant portion of what was a viable and thriving export market,” said ASA President Steve Wellman, a soybean farmer from Syracuse, Neb. “Now, with a Renewable Energy Directive that omits biodiesel based on inaccurate information and arbitrary standards, the remainder of that export market is threatened.”
In its comments, ASA points out that multiple EU policies hinder the importation and use of biotech crops from the United States, including delays in approvals of new biotech traits, despite positive assessments by the European Food Safety Authority; commercially infeasible requirements on biotech content in food products under EU Traceability and Labeling Regulations; state-by-state restrictions on biotech imports; and application of National Seed Catalog and Coexistence requirements to planting of biotech crops by certain EU member states.
With regard to biodiesel, ASA contends that the RED will impose inaccurate greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements for biodiesel produced from American soybean oil and other feedstocks; and will require compliance with arbitrary, unwarranted and commercially infeasible sustainability certification requirements.
“Soybeans and soy-based products are the country’s leading agricultural export, topping $26 billion in total value last year,” added Wellman. “We are certainly encouraged by efforts to expand trading relationships and grow new trading partners, but not at the expense of our industry’s global competitiveness. Any discussions on a potential trade agreement with the EU must first address and resolve these barriers.”