KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Canada’s biotech approval system is expediting commercialization of genetically modified crops south of the border, says a U.S. farm leader.
Some importers, such as China, will not begin their regulatory review of a new trait until it has been approved in at least one country where it will be grown.
Seed technology companies don’t like to commercialize traits until they have global approval for their GM crops, so any delay in North American approval puts the entire process behind schedule.
That’s why groups like the American Soybean Association (ASA) are relieved that Canada’s approval process is more streamlined than what is occurring in the United States.
“Thank goodness for Canada being on a quicker pace than the U.S. because then if it gets approved in Canada the companies can begin their work in China and other areas that have asynchronous approvals,” Steve Wellman, chair of the ASA, said in an interview at the 2013 Commodity Classic.
The U.S. approval process has been bogged down by critics who started with the fight over Roundup Ready alfalfa.
Commercialization of Roundup Ready alfalfa was temporarily disrupted in 2006 when the Center for Food Safety launched a legal challenge because the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to complete an environmental impact statement.
The statement took more than three years to complete. Sales of Roundup Ready alfalfa resumed in 2011.
Wellman said a lingering consequence of the lawsuit is that the USDA spends extra time preparing environmental impact statements to make sure they are bulletproof in the courts. That has lengthened the approval process.
“It’s a tactic that has ballooned the approval process from what began as an 18-month process (in 2005) to more than 40 months today,” he told reporters during a news conference.
That’s why some of the more recent traits are gaining approval quicker in Canada than the United States.
Wellman said the USDA is making headway in making the approval process more efficient but it is still a major irritant.
“We really can’t let the opponents of biotech define biotech and we can’t let the abundance of misinformation cloud the endless possibilities of new traits,” said Wellman.