After voting to allow EU member states to opt out of import of food and feed containing biotech traits, the European Commission on Friday approved 17 biotechnology traits for import.
The traits, which include the Plenish and Vistive Gold high-oleic soybean varieties, as well as dicamba-tolerant and omega-3 soybeans, have been in the EU approval process for multiple years.
American Soybean Association First Vice President Richard Wilkins, said the ASA expresses "guarded optimism" about the announcement.
"On the one hand, we're happy to see these traits finally receive Commission approval after years of delay," Wilkins said. The 17 products approved by the European Commission today have been pending for 69 months on average despite EU laws and regulations that foresee an 18-month time period for a decision.
"Whenever our technology partners bring a new trait to market, farmers in the U.S. aren't able to fully recognize the benefits of products with those traits until they are accepted in all of our key export markets, so this is a big, big step forward," Wilkins said.
Wilkins noted that ASA was "especially pleased" with the announcement with regard to high-oleic soybeans, which will give food processors the frying and baking qualities they need in an oil without the need for partial hydrogenation which produces trans fats.
"Additionally, dicamba-tolerant soybeans will give soybean farmers another tool to prevent and manage weed resistance in their fields," Wilkins said.
"On the other hand, however, this announcement means little if the EU persists in its current unscientific and delayed approval process for new varieties developed through biotechnology," Wilkins said.
According to ASA, more than 40 additional GM applications for import, submitted by various companies, remain pending in the EU system.
Wilkins reiterated disappointment in the EU decision earlier this week that allowed EU member states to opt out of imports of feed or food containing approved biotech traits.
"We believe that if that proposal is adopted, it would be in clear violation of the EU's obligations under the World Trade Organization and would negatively impact U.S. soy exports to Europe," Wilkins said.
"Again, any time we see the progress of modern agricultural biotechnology furthered by an approval for import in a foreign market, that's a step forward, and our farmers benefit," he said. "But on the whole, this week has shown that we still have a long way to go in Europe."