Council presses biotech, market access at T-TIP negotiations

Farm Forum

“The collapse of U.S. market share in corn exports to the EU coincided with the introduction of biotech events in corn, and that’s not an accident,” said Floyd Gaibler, the U.S. Grains Council director of trade policy and biotechnology. “It is clear that the EU uses biotechnology regulation to fence out U.S. imports, and that needs to change. That is a key goal in T-TIP.”

Gaibler presented the case directly to U.S. and European agricultural trade negotiators this week in Brussels, at the fourth round of negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The Council joined agricultural groups from both the United States and Europe in briefing the negotiating teams on key industry concerns.

Between 1987 and 1996, Gaibler noted, the United States enjoyed the lion’s share of EU corn imports. Beginning in 1997, however, the U.S. share plummeted to single digits and has remained at generally low-levels since then. The increasingly slow EU biotechnology approval system is a major factor in constricting U.S. sales.

“Had the United States maintained its pre-1997 market share in Europe,” Gaibler said, “U.S. cumulative sales to date would have been 40 million metric tons (1.6 billion bushels) higher, at a value of nearly $3 billion. While the rise of Black Sea production would presumably have cut into that figure somewhat, it is clear that a dysfunctional regulatory system is a major culprit.”

In Brussels, the Council continued its advocacy for greater predictability, transparency and timeliness in the EU biotechnology approval system. Improvements are also needed in approving stacked events, and in development of a trade enabling policy on low level presence of unapproved events. In addition, the Council emphasized that negotiations should ensure that the risk assessment of biotech events remains science-based and that efforts be made to acknowledge mutual recognition of approvals with other countries.

“This is important for U.S. producers and exporters,” Gaibler said. “And it is important for European consumers, who continue to pay very high food prices because they are denied free access to global markets. A high quality T-TIP agreement is urgently needed, even if it takes longer to negotiate. We should settle for nothing less.”