It may be a bit surprising that the top buzzword at the International Biotechnology Symposium was synchronization.
According to Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, director of the Economics and Management Agrobiotechnology Center, failure to synchronize biotech regulatory approvals is costing the world a lot of money. Speaking in Champaign, Ill., at the Illinois Soybean Association-organized event, Kalaitzandonakes took participants back to 2006 to make his point.
In late 2006, EU corn gluten meal imports from the U.S. were averaging around 300,000 metric tons per month. Due to regulatory asynchronization surrounding DuPont Pioneer's Herculex trait, CGM imports from the U.S. dropped to zero in early 2007.
Once Herculex was approved for import in the EU, CGM imports returned to normal levels. Yet, just a couple months later, Syngenta's Agrisure trait caused the same problem, returning imports to zero.
Kalaitzandonakes says the asynchronization that results from the piecemeal network of global procedures creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty.
"It does the exact opposite of what a proper regulatory system should do," he notes.
From trait identification to product release, Kalaitzandonakes says biotech development operates much like an assembly line. Problem is, the uncertainty that crops up with the regulatory process (much like the current situation with 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant crop technology) can bring the assembly line to a screeching halt.
Kalaitzandonakes points to research that indicates biotech has created nearly $14 billion in economic benefit for consumers from 1996-2009. In that same time, biotech generated some $26 billion in benefit for U.S. farmers.
An integrated LAC market
Latin American Countries recognize biotech will play a big role in the future of feeding the world.
Pedro Rocha, with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, explains LACs are working hard to educate and communicate the benefits of biotech with their countries' populations. Rocha presented slides that showed educational materials for primary and secondary schools.
Additionally, Rocha says LACs are attempting to develop a synchronized process to approve biotech traits for the entire area. If realized, it would provide a massive integrated market for U.S. seed companies. Brazil and Argentina lead the way in GMO crops planted with 90.4 million and 59.1 million acres, respectively.
As politicians and foreign ambassadors work toward synchronized approval processes, there is a lot on the line. Numerous speakers pointed out that biotechnology will be key in feeding a growing global population.
Yong Gao, director of regulatory policy and scientific affairs for Monsanto, notes that countries resistant to GMOs are being left behind in terms of food production.
Gao displayed a chart that compared corn yield gains in countries that have adopted GMOs versus those that haven't. From 2000-11, South Africa saw yield gains of 1.88 metric tons per hectare. The U.S. jumped 1.77 metric tons per hectare in that time.
However, GMO-resistant countries like India and Mexico only saw gains of 0.73 and 0.80 metric tons/hectare, respectively.