NOTE: Recently we saw the lengths that the biotech-industry backed American Soybean Association (ASA) was going to in its efforts to influence European politicians and farmers' leaders to push for GMOs and the removal of regulatory constraints. This article gives a clear sense of the extent of the lobbying activities of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC).


USGC confronts biotech constraints
South East Farm Press, Feb 4 2008

Biotechnology is undoubtedly a major constraint, in many cases, when developing markets and enabling trade for U.S. feed grains.

U.S. Grains Council Assistant Director in Taiwan Clover Chang said the lack of understanding for grains derived from genetically enhanced seeds is an obstacle for U.S. exports and addressing the issue through science-based education efforts has been a long time goal of the Council.

'Assisting in easing biotech regulations is not easy. It consists of using sound science, developing trust of end-users, as well as biotech regulators, and presenting the facts in a detailed, yet easy to understand manner,' said Chang. 'Due to our long history in Taiwan working as an objective, non-profit organization, we have acquired the trust of government regulators and end-users as being a reliable and trustworthy organization that has much information about the truth regarding biotechnology.'

Most recently, Kevin H.T. Lin, senior researcher of Taiwan's Bureau of Food Safety under Department of Health (BFS/DOH), visited the Council's Taiwan office where he discussed the updated development of the approval of agricultural biotech events.

'Since BFS/DOH is studying the regulations of application and approval for stacked biotech events in other advanced countries, and the Food Industry Research and Development Institute (FIRDI) is drafting the related guidelines for BFS/DOH at the moment, he mentioned that it is necessary to have the key persons of FIRDI and key members of the Genetically Modified Foods Advisory Committee (GMFAC) visit the United States to familiarize themselves with the regulations and management of stacked agricultural biotech events,' said Chang, adding that the Council will submit an amendment for inviting key government officials and GMFAC members to the United States in the coming months to visit related organizations and government agencies.

Another related hurdle in Taiwan regarding feed grains imports from the United States is the Maximum Residue Limits (MRL), which is the government's set allowed value estimated for pesticides. The MRL of the top 30 agricultural chemicals for growing and storing U.S. grains, crops, fruits and vegetables were submitted to BFS/DOH by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) on June 1, 2007.

However, MRL will likely become a headache issue at any time, according to Chang.

'We have to provide needed assistance to the authorities for paving the ways to the right direction of MRL issue,' he said. 'For instance, according to Codex, the MRL of malathion for corn is 0.05 parts per million, which is too low to be practical.'

The Council and Taiwan's local feed industry have been working with BFS/DOH to establish more reasonable MRL for corn, barley and grain sorghum, Chang said. Recently, the Council arranged for Hui-Wen Cheng, director general of BFS/DOH, to talk with the chairman, secretary general and directors of Taiwan Feed Industry Association (TFIA) face-to-face about the updated development of MRL of imported grains.

Cheng mentioned that BFS/DOH will likely establish the MRL for some of those 30 agricultural chemicals within three to four months. Chang said the participants appreciated Cheng's 'friendly approach to discussing this topic frankly and helping smooth the imports of grains,' which amounts to roughly 96 percent from the United States.