A controversial proposal scheduled for an Oct. 26 vote in the European Union (EU) Parliament would allow EU member countries to opt out of the use of imported, genetically modified (GM) crops. A negative result could have big consequences for U.S. soybean farmers, in particular.
The EU is the second-largest market for U.S. soybean exports, most of which are grown from GM seed. U.S. farmers’ market share of EU’s corn imports, meanwhile, is relatively small, with Europe growing much of its own.
Maryland-based consultant David Green of Greenhouse Communications tracks EU market access for several U.S. agriculture groups, particularly in the soy industry. Green, a former farmer in his native Ireland, recently discussed with AgWeb what the provision could mean for U.S. soybean farmers.
AgWeb: What’s the background of the EU’s opt-out proposal?
Green: The EU Agriculture Commission came out with a proposal in April to allow members to opt out of the use of imported biotech crops, even though these crops were approved at the EU level following a rigorous scientific assessment. Under the EU’s complicated approval process, the commission makes the final decision on authorization. So, to get member states to agree on allowing imports of biotech crops, they propose allowing members to restrict or ban their use.
AgWeb: Why should U.S. farmers care?
Green: Every member of the EU imports biotech soybeans in some shape or form. After China, Europe is the U.S.’s No. 2 soybean market. Its animal feed industry depends on it. Even the most anti-GMO EU member states consume 60 kg of soy per person, mainly through meat fed GM rations.
AgWeb: What can U.S. farmers do?
Green: Farmers have a great story to tell on biotech as family farmers who care for the environment and look after the land, since that is where they make their livelihood. It’s important for farmers to share their real-life experience of the benefits of biotech.
How concerned are you about this situation? Let us know in the comments.