Soy Canada is calling on the European Union to move ahead with its decision on approval of three genetically modified soybean products and for an explanation of why it’s taken so long.
Monsanto was planning to introduce one of these GM traits — Roundup Ready 2 Xtend and its stacked glyphosate and dicamba tolerance — to the Canadian market for planting in the next few weeks, but deferred shipments of seed to farmers as approval from the EU has been delayed.
“We’re very concerned that there are long delays in the process in Europe that go beyond real science-based approval processes and are really political in nature,” explains Jim Everson, executive director for the organization that represents the Canadian soybean value chain (listen to our conversation below.)
He stresses Soy Canada is not asking the EU to alter its approval process in any way.
“We’re not asking them to reduce their considerations for safety for humans, for animals or for the environment. We’re not asking for any changes to their regulations. We’re simply asking that their regulations move, and that they move these approval applications through the process in an expeditious manner,” says Everson.
In January of this year, the EU Ombudsman concluded that a 3 1/2 months delay at this stage of the GM approval process was unreasonable and constituted “maladministration,” he notes. “On this particular set of GM events that are pending approval in Europe, we are now at that same 3 1/2 month period since they were considered by the Appeal Committee.”
The other two soybean traits awaiting approval are a high-oleic, glyphosate-tolerant technology developed by Monsanto and a stacked glyphosate/isoxaflutole-tolerant product from Bayer. All three have been in the EU’s import approval system since 2011 or 2012 and have been waiting on the last step of the process since January. For companies who have heavily invested in developing the technology, there’s a cost to keeping it on the shelf.
“They keep saying it’s very close to final approval. So suppose it’s approved at the end of May, that just may be too late for the Canadian farmer to make use of the product for a whole year,” Everson points out. “Farming is all about innovation, and we have companies investing very heavily to provide innovation to the farmer, and we want the farmer to be able to take advantage of that.”
Canada’s Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland are both aware of the issue, he says, noting “the credibility of the CETA agreement is on the line when Europe is already ignoring commitments it made to Canada during the negotiations.”
“There’s a biotechnology chapter in the Canada-Europe trade agreement where some of the wording is about ensuring there isn’t trade disruption or disruption to commerce as a result of regulations on biotechnology, and that the countries will work together to resolve those. I would submit that is exactly the circumstance here,” he says. “There are commitments in the Canada-European trade agreement that we need to insist Europe honour.”
Everson discusses the EU’s delayed decision on Xtend and two other soybean traits: