More than 200 biotechnology regulators, international trade experts and farmers from 16 countries on five continents met in Champaign, Ill., last month to discuss the state of the agricultural biotechnology regulatory systems and its implications for the future, as well as explore some solutions.

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) hosted the International Biotechnology Symposium Aug. 26, where experts discussed roadblocks presented by the asynchronous biotechnology approval process that includes a wide range of government agencies, testing timelines and restricting factors.

Farmer Santiago Del Solar grows soybeans, corn, wheat, barley and sunflowers on his farm in Argentina. He participated in an international farmer panel and echoed a need that many addressed during the symposium: Like-minded countries need to work together to streamline the trade and approval process.

“Our countries have a very important job to do; help get our soybeans to markets as partners,” says Del Solar. “We have a lot of challenging work ahead of us for the future.”

That work involves overcoming the unique biotechnology regulatory systems of 33 countries to find a faster way to get biotech soybean traits to market for use around the world. The current regulatory path takes an average 16.3 years to accomplish.

“Regulation is an important part of the biotech innovation process,” says Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, who delivered the keynote address at the symposium. “Regulation is in place to make sure new products are safe and are used responsibly, but it also is in place to reduce uncertainty and improve the flow of new biotech products.”

Other panelists noted with more than two dozen new biotech traits for soybeans currently in development by U.S. seed companies, asynchronous approval processes stand in the way of increased crop yields and quality that could mean better global food security.

Sponsors of the symposium included the U.S. Soybean Export Council, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, Penton/Farm Progress, WinField, Bayer CropScience, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Nebraska Soybean Board, Ohio Soybean Council and the National Soybean Research Laboratory.