Farmers who produce 90% of the world's soybean exports have joined forces to support biotechnology in the European Union.
Soybean farmers from the United States and their counterparts from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, though competitors in global soy trade, are presenting a united front in meetings with members of the European Union food and feed chain and representatives of the EU government.
The farmers, part of a group formed in 2007 known as the International Soy Growers Alliance, plan to discuss the importance of biotechnology to feed a growing population and how slow government-approval processes and restrictions based on non-scientific reasoning cause trade disruption.
"This has been a very important meeting for us," says Bob Metz, soybean farmer from West Brown Valley, S.D., and vice chair of USB's Global Opportunities program. "The European Union is a very important customer for us and obviously a large population. They only produce about 2% of their protein needs in the European Union so they have a great dependence on the rest of the world for soybeans."
USB and the soy checkoff help collect and disseminate information about the safety of biotech soybeans to keep decision makers informed. The EU has a lengthy approval process on new biotech varieties, which have not only affected soy exports to these 27 countries, but also to other European countries as well as countries that trade with the EU.
"We have delivered a very strong message as we stand together with our South American friends saying that the market is moving forward with biotech events, not only from the United States but from universities in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay as well," adds Metz. "As these new traits come forward, the European Union really needs to find a way to accept these traits in a more timely fashion."
The 69 farmer-directors of USB oversee the investments of the soy checkoff to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds to increase the value of U.S. soy meal and oil, to ensure U.S. soybean farmers and their customers have the freedom and infrastructure to operate, and to meet the needs of U.S. soy's customers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.