Because nearly 95 percent of soybeans in the U.S. are grown from biotechnology seed, it was only fitting that Greenwood, Del., farmer and American Soybean Association (ASA) treasurer Richard Wilkins appeared on Capitol Hill before the Senate Committee on Finance to testify about the importance of biotechnology to soybean farmers. The hearing was to look at agricultural trade agreements.
The hearing, “Trade Enforcement: Using Trade Rules to Level the Playing Field for U.S. Companies and Workers,” addressed the impact and implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade agreements, U.S. trade with China, and other aspects of America’s trade relationships abroad. Soybeans are the nation’s leading agricultural export, and ASA has long taken a major role in discussions of international trade.
In his testimony, Wilkins addressed the need for a more consistent regulatory framework in our various partner nations, citing specifically the inconsistent and unreliable frameworks in China and the European Union.
“Other countries have adopted systems for approving biotech traits, but these decisions are subject to differing regulations or are overtly political, which can result in lengthy delays between approvals in importing and exporting countries,” he testified. “This is a concern because, until an importer approves a new trait, even a trace amount of that trait detected in a cargo can result in its rejection and major losses for the shipper.”
Wilkins pointed to ASA’s advocacy for a global Low Level Presence (LLP) policy to tackle this challenge. “An LLP would allow a shipment containing a small amount of an exporting country’s approved trait without resulting in rejection by an importer,” he said.
Pointing specifically to the EU, Wilkins spoke to the difficulties presented by Europe’s labeling policy for foods containing biotechnology-derived ingredients, and noted that such policies may be in violation of the EU’s commitments under the World Trade Organization.
“The EU could have provided information to consumers without distorting trade by establishing voluntary labeling standards for non-biotech foods,” he said. “As a WTO member, the EU is obliged to choose a less restrictive measure if one that accomplishes its objective is available.”
This is the third time that Wilkins has testified on international trade issues on behalf of the nation’s soybean farmers in recent years. For a full transcript of Wilkins’ testimony, click here.