Soybean Stakeholders Monetize Biotech Approval Delays

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A three-year postponement in the global approval of biotech-enhanced soybean traits any time in the next 10 years would cost farmers and consumers a total of nearly $19 billion, compared with typical approval timelines, according to a new white paper funded by the International Soybean Growers Alliance (ISGA).

This new research was released during a recent ISGA mission where farm-leaders from the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay met with Chinese government officials and influencers to discuss the economic implications of these delays for global producers and consumers of soy.

“It’s no secret that soy is part of a global market,” says Bob Haselwood, United Soybean Board (USB) chairman and soybean farmer from Berryton, Kansas. “We need a coordinated effort across North America, South America and China to work toward timely international approvals for new biotech traits to grow a safe, reliable and abundant food supply that is profitable for both producers and consumers.”

Farmers in large soy-exporting countries that quickly adopt new technology — the U.S., Brazil and Argentina — and consumers in large importing countries — China and the nations in the European Union — have the most to lose from delayed approvals, according to the white paper.

“The global supply chain is a powerful economic engine that benefits not only farmers and consumers, but stakeholders at each stage in between,” says Wade Cowan, American Soybean Association (ASA) president and soybean farmer from Brownfield, Texas. “It is a point of pride for U.S. soybean farmers that the beans we grow produce an entire secondary economy of jobs in the U.S. and in each of our export markets. We’re also proud that our beans play such a key role in supporting economies as their citizens demand more meat protein, as is the case in China. Those benefits, however, can’t take place if the approvals process breaks down, and that’s why we’re over here, working to ensure that we have a system that works for both the Chinese and their import partners in the U.S. and South America.”

As an example of important biotech approvals that farmers might need in the near future, the study examined herbicide-tolerance traits and analyzed the effects of approval delays through 2025.

Regulatory delays have real costs for society. For example, when new biotech herbicide-tolerant varieties are not approved in a timely manner, farmers continue to incur increased weed-control costs, potential yield losses and reductions in acreage. Some farmers may see greatly increased production costs or be forced out of farming entirely. At the same time, higher prices and reduced supplies strain consumers.

“Timely, science-based approvals are crucial in ensuring increased productivity to meet global supply demands,” says Laura Foell, U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) chair. “This mission provided an opportunity for the world’s largest soy producers and consumers to learn that resolving approval delays will benefit everyone along the supply chain.”

The white paper, “The Potential Economic Impacts of Delayed Biotech Innovation in Soybeans,” was developed in conjunction with ISGA members, by researchers Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Kenneth Zahringer and Jon Kruse at the University of Missouri.