American Soybean Association Treasurer Richard Wilkins appeared Wednesday on Capitol Hill before the Senate Committee on Finance to testify about the importance of biotechnology to soybean farmers as the U.S. pursues trade agreements abroad.
The hearing, "Trade Enforcement: Using Trade Rules to Level the Playing Field for U.S. Companies and Workers," addressed the impact and implications of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade agreements, U.S. trade with China, and other aspects of America's trade relationships abroad.
"Other countries have adopted systems for approving biotech traits, but these decisions are subject to differing regulations or are overtly political, which can result in lengthy delays between approvals in importing and exporting countries," Wilkins testified. "This is a concern because, until an importer approves a new trait, even a trace amount of that trait detected in a cargo can result in its rejection and major losses for the shipper."
Wilkins pointed to a global Low Level Presence policy as an option to tackle this challenge.
"An LLP would allow a shipment containing a small amount of an exporting country's approved trait without resulting in rejection by an importer," he said.
Pointing specifically to the EU, Wilkins spoke to the difficulties presented by Europe's labeling policy for foods containing biotechnology-derived ingredients, and noted that such policies may be in violation of the EU's commitments under the World Trade Organization.
"The EU could have provided information to consumers without distorting trade by establishing voluntary labeling standards for non-biotech foods," he said. "As a WTO member, the EU is obliged to choose a less restrictive measure if one that accomplishes its objective is available."
View a video replay of the hearing on the Committee website.