Eight long-delayed biotech traits awaiting approval by the European Commission will likely have to continue to wait as a new set of commissioners takes the reins starting Nov. 1, the U.S. Grains Council said last week.
The Oct. 21 and Oct. 29 meetings of the College of Commissioners were the last scheduled opportunities to take action on biotech approvals before the transition, USGC said. The issue now moves to the incoming commissioners.
"This is, once again, a disappointing failure of the European Union to live up to its own statutory requirements, World Trade Organization commitments and policy guidelines," said Floyd Gaibler, USGC director of trade policy.
"On paper, the EU is committed to a science based process with transparent standards and a reasonable timetable. In practice, the EU process is politically driven. This hurts U.S. farmers and traders, European livestock producers and of course European consumers, who are the biggest losers."
European feed and livestock producers have estimated that consumers in the EU may pay as much as 5 billion euros annually in higher costs because of EU's continual delays on biotech approvals, USGC said. Those costs come in the forms of imported feeds and higher meat imports, which are necessary because the European livestock industry is currently denied full access to imported feed grains.
The traits at issue are corn, soy, canola and cotton varieties that have already been found to be safe by the European Food Safety Authority, USGC said. Their approval is also supported by a coalition of EU livestock and farm groups.
Despite having passed scientific and safety reviews, some advocacy groups have generated political pressure to block approval, which the USGC says is on non-scientific grounds.
"The EU continues to let politics overrule the science," Gaibler said. "This is a key issue for the WTO, which found as long ago as 2006 that the EU's slow walking of approvals is a violation of existing WTO commitments. This is also an issue as we work to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Agreements on paper aren't worth much if contracting parties ignore their commitments, and if there is no enforcement."
While the new College of Commissioners could act on the approvals immediately, incoming President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for a review of biotechnology approval policies during his first six months in office.
It remains to be seen whether this review will become the excuse for further politically driven delays, USGC said.