American Soybean Association (ASA) President Mark Berg testified before the House International Relations Committee last week to present soybean producers’ views on trade issues with the European Union (EU) concerning agricultural products derived from biotechnology. Berg, a Tripp, South Dakota soybean grower, pointed to the rapid acceptance of biotech crops by U.S. farmers as an important factor for addressing EU delays in approving imports of these new varieties.”After many years of seeing the technology advance, and now with the commercialization developing rapidly, American farmers are very eager to take advantage of the benefits plant biotechnology offers,” said Berg.Berg reported that 30 percent of U.S. soybean acreage, 25 percent of corn acreage and 40 percent of cotton acreage—a total of 44 million acres—would be planted with genetically modified varieties in 1998. “This rapid expansion is possible not only because of the developments in technology, but also the regulatory system in the United States which efficiently evaluates the safety of genetically modified crops using science-based risk assessments.”The United States has approved the marketing of three soybean varieties and fifteen corn varieties since 1996. In contrast, the EU has approved the marketing of only one soybean variety and one corn variety. EU delays in approvals are beginning to disrupt marketing of U.S. commodities to European Markets, prompting Berg to make five recommendations.”First we need the EU to adopt a much more transparent and efficient process for approving new biotech varieties,” said Berg who cited frustration with the EU changing its approval process in midstream.The second action Berg suggested is for biotech and seed companies to seek clearances for new varieties in major U.S. export markets on a timely basis, and preferably before they are commercialized in the United States. To prevent trade sanctions against all U.S. soybeans, ASA has requested that each company currently in the soybean biotech arena not launch biotech varieties into commercial markets until the varieties are approved overseas as well as in the United States. ASA has received assurances for 1998 that companies will postpone their commercial launches of unapproved varieties.Berg’s third request was for the EU and other countries to accept that there is no scientific basis for requiring segregation or labeling of biotech varieties that have been determined to be substantially equivalent to conventional varieties in terms of safety, nutrition and composition.Fourth, the Clinton Administration needs to engage the EU in an effort to reach agreement to recognize each other’s procedures for approving and commercializing biotech crops and products.Berg’s final recommendation was that rules governing biotech should be included in the next World Trade Organization negotiations. “The language in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement in the Uruguay Round Agreement must be clarified to apply to biotech crops and products, and to supersede the rules of any other international treaty or agreement,” Berg said.