After expressing severe frustration with the European Commission’s proposal to allow EU member states to opt out of the import of food and feed containing biotechnology traits earlier in the week, the American Soybean Association (ASA) welcomed news out of Brussels Friday that the EU has approved 17 biotechnology traits for import. The traits, which include the Plenish and Vistive Gold high-oleic soybean varieties, as well as dicamba-tolerant and omega-3 soybeans, have been in the EU approval process for multiple years. ASA First Vice President Richard Wilkins, a soybean farmer from Greenwood, Del., noted the association’s guarded optimism about today’s news in a statement:

“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.

“Additionally, the action taken by the EU Commission earlier this week that would allow each of the EU’s 28 member states to “opt-out” of allowing imports of a fully approved, safe GM product is a giant step backwards. We believe that if that proposal is adopted, it 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.

“Again, any time we see the progress of modern agricultural biotechnology furthered by an approval for import in a foreign market, that’s a step forward, and our farmers benefit. But on the whole, this week has shown that we still have a long way to go in Europe.”