A new white paper shows that a three-year postponement in global approval of biotech-enhanced soybean traits any time in the next 10 years would cost farmers and consumers a total of nearly $19 billion, compared with typical approval timelines.
The research was released during a recent International Soybean Growers Alliance mission.
Farmer-leaders from the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay met with Chinese governmental officials and influencers to discuss the economic implications of these delays for global producers and consumers of soy.
"It's no secret that soy is part of a global market," says Bob Haselwood, United Soybean Board chairman. "We need a coordinated effort across North America, South America and China to work toward timely international approvals for new biotech traits to grow a safe, reliable and abundant food supply that is profitable for both producers and consumers."
Large soy exporters have most to lose
Farmers in large soy-exporting countries that quickly adopt new technology – U.S., Brazil and Argentina –as well as customers in importing countries, have the most to lose from delayed approvals, according to the white paper.
As an example of important biotech approvals that farmers might need in the near future, the study examined herbicide-tolerance traits and analyzed the effects of approval delays through 2025.
When new biotech herbicide-tolerant varieties are not approved in a timely manner, farmers continue to incur increased weed-control costs, potential yield losses and reductions in acreage. Some farmers may see greatly increased production costs or be forced out of farming entirely.
At the same time, higher prices and reduced supplies strain consumers.
"Timely, science-based approvals are crucial in ensuring increased productivity to meet global supply demands," says Laura Foell, U.S. Soybean Export Council chair. "This mission provided an opportunity for the world's largest soy producers and consumers to learn that resolving approval delays will benefit everyone along the supply chain."
The white paper, The Potential Economic Impacts of Delayed Biotech Innovation in Soybeans, was developed in conjunction with ISGA members, by researchers Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Kenneth A. Zahringer and Jon Kruse at the University of Missouri.
Biotech traits on the front burner in EU
The whitepaper comes as the European Commission made two key announcements last week on biotech regulations.
First, the Commission proposed amending its approvals process for biotechnology traits to allow individual EU member states to opt out of the import of products containing those traits, even if the traits have been approved by the EU food safety body.
Following the two announcements, the American Soybean Association said it had "guarded optimism" about the decision to allow import of the 17 traits.
"On the one hand, we're happy to see these traits finally receive Commission approval after years of delay," said American Soybean Association First Vice President Richard Wilkins. "On the other hand, however, this announcement means little if the EU persists in its current unscientific and delayed approval process for new varieties developed through biotechnology."