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Is the EU Permanently Closed to Biotech? - 27th August 2013

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Tuesday 27th August 2013.
Sarah Mikesell - 

TheCropSite Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell
Senior Editor


Is the EU Permanently Closed to Biotech?

Greetings from central Illinois! I was in Champaign, Illinois – home of the University of Illinois – on Monday for the International Biotechnology Conference, which was put on by the Illinois Soybean Association.

It was an exceptional conference and I’ll tell you why… I sometimes attend conferences that say they are international, but really just represent the US, Canada and maybe Mexico.

This was truly international – people from 16 different countries attended and almost all of the audience questions were asked by attendees from countries other than the US. I was delighted to personally meet and talk to folks from India, Argentina and Brazil, although many other countries were represented.

Learning about how things “work” in other countries is a real passion of mine. And this conference held to its name of offering an international perspective on biotechnology. I’ll offer a few speaker insights below, but please watch News & Analysis for more detailed stories from the conference.

Paul Temple, a farmer from East Yorkshire, England, said to most, the EU looks closed for business when it comes to biotechnology. Paul and other speakers offered little hope that the EU's biotech position will change anytime in the next five years. 

Paul said most UK farmers have never seen GM crops in the field and don’t even consider growing GM crops because they are as misinformed about biotechnology as the UK public. He noted that there are no programs to take GM onto their farms and major biotech companies are walking away from the EU. He also said that most consumers, politicians and farmers are unaware of the need for protein imports and that 80 per cent of those are GM-based. 

Dr. Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Director of Economics and Management of Agrobiotechnology Center, said sustained innovation comes with sustained investment and effort. From 1985 – 2012, there was a 17-fold increase in private sector investment. He also said there is a misconception that consumers don’t benefit from technology, but they do via lower food costs. His calculations show that consumers have gained $14 billion from Roundup Ready soybeans alone.

Dr. Dick Crowder, former Chief Agriculture Negotiator, Office of the US Trade Representative, said he believes we can double production by 2050 to meet food demand. In the new global environment, the best source of food security will not be found in the concept of self-sufficiency, but will be found in reliable trading partners. Uncertainty created by customers because of lack of biotechnology approvals and other reasons will result in a risk premium they pay for their product.

Tuesday through Thursday I'll be at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois. I’ll let you know what new technology is coming your way next week. Again, watch News & Analysis this week for live coverage of the Farm Progress Show.

Have a great week!

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