At the Council on Foreign Relations roundtable on “Current Negotiations on Agricultural Biotechnology,” held recently in New York City, American Soybean Association Chairman Dwain Ford, a soybean grower from Kinmundy, Ill., said it is imperative that the United States not go back to a time decades ago when politicians and government restricted trade based on populist opinions.

“Efforts to stigmatize and restrict trade in agricultural biotechnology crops that have been approved by regulators and determined to be even safer than conventional crops give rise to the question of whether agricultural innovators will be allowed to improve the food products they export to consumers around the world,” Ford said.

According to Ford, a readily available example of this type of government restriction is the European Union's recent adoption of traceability and labeling regulations for biotech food and feed products. The regulations will require that all food products containing more than 0.9 percent biotech ingredients carry a label, even though the biotech ingredients have been approved by EU regulatory authorities and determined to be safe for food, feed, and the environment.

Additionally, all food products containing biotech ingredients must be elaborately traced from farm to fork with records kept for five years, a costly and trade-limiting requirement not being imposed on foods that don't contain biotech ingredients.

“By bowing to populist pressure, the European Union is making it possible for anti-ag biotech activists to drive biotech products off the shelves.” That will lead to activist pressure for over-regulation of other product advancements, Ford said.

“Despite clear and wide-ranging scientific proof that biotech crops are even safer and more environmentally friendly than conventional crops, the EU has taken action that will deny farmers in the United States and elsewhere, who adopt new technologies, access to markets in Europe. To make matters worse, the EU is attempting to export its restrictive approach to agricultural innovation to the rest of the world.”

“Now is not the time for the world to regress to behavior that is reminiscent of past trade errors made because of activist or populist demands,” Ford said. “It is time for nations… to challenge those nations that bow to such pressure and place costly and trade-restrictive regulations on technologies that have been approved by scientists and regulators.”