WASHINGTON – They don’t agree on their interpretations, but farmers and food industry representatives say the European Union’s new traceability and labeling rules could create serious problems for U.S. agriculture exports. And the fact that there are differing opinions on the complex EU regulations could in itself make it more difficult for the United States to ship grain and other farm products to Europe.
The rules, scheduled to take effect in mid-April, which will significantly change requirements for the sale, labeling and approval of U.S. food and feed produced using biotechnology, were discussed by the EU food safety agency, U.S. government officials, industry experts and agriculture and food associations at the National Corn Growers Association Traceability and Labeling Conference in Washington.
“Our goal was a better understanding of these newest regulations,” said Helen Inman, chair of NCGA’s Biotechnology Working Group. “Hearing the differing interpretations of these complex regulations made this a very productive event. Differences of opinion were evident, and they are helping us identify steps that the U.S. government and industry must take to help assure no disruptions in the international trade of grain and oilseeds.”
The all-day session presented the varying perspectives of EU food safety and farm group representatives, U.S. government agencies, food industry, grain handling industry and agricultural producers. All sectors are carefully reviewing the regulations and the implementation requirements. Differing opinions give by the panel participants clarified that there are many questions regarding how the regulations will be implemented. Many of these questions will have an impact on our ability to ship commodities to the EU.
“Corn growers and others in attendance gained valuable information regarding how the rules will impact marketing in the feed and food production chain,” NCGA President Dee Vaughan said. “The consensus from growers and government representatives in attendance was that the conference was a success in communicating the U.S. growers’ concern to the European Union officials that attended.”
Vaughan noted corn growers attending the conference also learned that, while it is not often reported in the media, corn farmers in some European countries want to utilize biotech products and understand their benefits.
Last fall, 20 agriculture and agri-business groups, including the National Corn Growers Association, signed a letter urging the United States Trade Representative to take action against the new EU rules.