WASHINGTON – “It is clear that the EU restrictions have to do with political and regulatory incompetence, misinformation and old-fashioned protectionism rather than scientific uncertainty,” said National Corn Growers Association president Fred Yoder June 24 while testifying before Congress on the European Union moratorium on biotechnology.
Yoder was the only agriculture commodity representative to deliver testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs.
The hearing was convened to discuss differing views of biotechnology technology between the United States and Europe.
Dispute settlement. Yoder’s testimony focused on the ongoing moratorium and the World Trade Organization dispute settlement complaint that was initiated by the United States last month.
“NCGA would have preferred to avoid a confrontation,” said Yoder, a Plain City, Ohio, grower.
“We believe we have shown considerable patience over the five years while the moratorium has been in effect, despite the loss of more than $300 million per year in corn exports to the EU,” Yoder said.
“We were hopeful that European leaders would find their way through their regulatory problems and come into compliance with their international obligations. However, we became convinced for a number of reasons that the time had come to act.”
Reasoning. According to Yoder, the association supports the WTO settlement for the following reasons:
* Unwillingness of EU officials to resolve the problem without outside pressure.
The EU Commission has promised many times over the past five years to restart the approval process for new biotech products but has continuously failed to deliver.
* European Union policies are beginning to effect market access for biotech products around the world by influencing governments to adopted versions of the EU’s current labeling regime.
* EU policies are undermining WTO rules, specifically the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which establishes rules that help WTO members distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate health and safety regulations.
“If we refrain from asserting our WTO rights against so blatant a violation, we will see other countries behaving similarly and will find it increasingly difficult to enforce SPS rules,” continued Yoder.
Won’t end problems. Yoder went on to further to say that ending the moratorium will not put an end to ongoing trade problems with Europe.
Referring to the EU’s adoption of new legislation on labeling and traceability of biotech products, Yoder said there is even more damaging legislation in the works.
“The sampling, testing and administrative costs required to assure compliance with the proposed European regulations are well beyond the ability of the bulk grain handling system without massive cost increases that would destroy the competitiveness of imported grain in Europe,” Yoder said.
“Consumers in Europe and everywhere should have choices in the food selections they make. This starts with allowing the marketing of safe products and not holding them in perpetual regulatory limbo.”
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