Laura Foell meets with U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus before the start of the Forum on Biotechnology and Global Soy Trade Tuesday in Beijing.
While farmers across the United States are in the midst of planting the 2015 crop a group of farmers from Iowa, Texas and Kansas traveled to Beijing, China to take part in the Forum on Biotechnology and Global Soy Trade.
The day long forum, organized by the International Soy Growers Alliance (ISGA), released a peer reviewed white paper detailing the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops for countries that accept them while also documenting the economic impact of delays in regulatory approval. About 100 Chinese agriculture, state and industry representatives attended the forum.
Laura Foell, a farmer from Schaller and chairman of the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC), was one of three farmer leaders that traveled to Beijing to discuss the importance of GM crops to their operations. Wade Cowan, president of the American Soybean Association and Bob Haselwood, the Chairman of the United Soybean Board also attended. They joined farmers from Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay as a united front through the ISGA to sponsor the forum.
The ISGA is made up of growers and industry representatives from countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay and the U.S. supplying over 95% of the world’s soybean production who share a commitment to meet the rapidly increasing world demand for quality and healthy soy products produced in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner.
“In 2014 we (ISGA) commissioned this white paper. We wanted something we could use to show people the economic impact of slow approvals. This is scientifically peer reviewed and not just hearsay,” Foell said. ”When we are visiting with industry representatives and government agencies it will bring to light the economic and cultural impact that slow approvals have.”
A member of the crowd asks a question about biotechnology crops during the forum.
The white paper that was discussed at the forum and released to those in attendance is called “The Potential Economic Impacts of Delayed Biotech Innovation in Soybeans” and was written by Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Kenneth Zahringer and John Kruse.
As a unified statement for a streamlined approval process, the foreign ambassadors from each of the IGSA member countries in attendance also addressed the forum.
“I urge everyone here to share notes, share ideas and ask questions,” Max Baucus the U.S. Ambassador to China said. “We need to continue to develop soybean production, soybean consumption and the food needs of the this world.”
In 2014 biotech crops were raised by 18 million farmers in 28 countries. The use of those biotech crops increased crop productivity while reducing land use and fuel use. But slow regulatory approval and zero-tolerance policies have threatened international trade and has the potential to cause price increases according to the white paper.
Members of the Chinese media ask questions of a speaker at the conclusion of the forum.
The economic benefits from the adoption of new soybean varieties will be large,” Lloyd Day deputy director general of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) told the group while discussing the white paper. “If new traits are delayed in reaching the market they will not only impact farmers and seed developers, but also restrict consumer access to adequate nutrition.”
New technologies provide farmers new tools to manage pests, produce soybeans more efficiently and deliver a higher quality product in a sustainable manner.
An expert presents on GMO policies in China during the Forum on Biotechnology and Global Soy Trade.
“We can’t allow non scientific opinions to drive the day,” Cowan said. “We’re all in favor of a level playing field and we need to work together to let each market find its level. When you come together in a forum like this you can’t play country against country. The message doesn’t hold water anymore when we’re all in the same room.”
Members of the Chinese media in attendance at the forum were able to ask questions of all the forum speakers and representatives from each of the ISGA countries. Many of the forum participants echoed the fact that the increased regulatory process has stifled innovation and costs nearly $136 million for discovery, development and authorization of a new biotech crop. ISGA members hope that the information from the day combined with the white paper will help spread the truth about biotechnology crops while easing fears from Chinese citizens about the technology.
“Ultimately, you hope that any work done here will speed up the approval process,” Haselwood said. “I think that the cooperation we have with our South American partners will make the Chinese officials stop and think that they are going to have to work with us as group instead of individually and I think that is a good thing.”
By Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager