The European Union Parliament today rejected a controversial proposal that would have allowed its individual member countries to ban or limit imports of genetically modified foods or products, including most of the U.S. soy exported there.
That’s good news for American soybean farmers, who rely on genetically modified seed for their crops and exported $1.5 billion worth of soybeans and $860 million worth of soybean meal to EU countries in 2013, much of it for livestock feed.
“This is a much-needed action today by the European Parliament,” said Wade Cowan, the Texas soybean farmer and president of the American Soybean Association (ASA). ASA and the national soybean checkoff have lobbied EU officials over the years to make science-based decisions on regulatory matters, rather than allow politics to interfere. “We are very happy to see the Europeans do so this morning," Cowan said in a released statement. "One of the unifying principles of the EU is to provide a single market, both within Europe and as a partner in global commerce. Enabling each of its 28 member states to go rogue on GMO acceptance, based on societal or political concerns, is hardly a unifying strategy for success.”
But today’s vote could also affect the larger issue of anti-GMO sentiment in Europe and beyond. “My view is that we’ve long ago given up access to Europe’s markets for bulk commodities," said Stephanie Mercier, senior policy and advocacy adviser for the Farm Journal Foundation in Washington. “The greater concern is that the European attitude is starting to infect other countries.”
She points to the example of Zambia, where the Zambian government in 2002 refused to accept food aid of genetically modified corn despite a devastating famine. “The need for more food is so dire in Africa that we cannot afford to take anything off the table,” Mercier said.