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American Seed Trade Association suspends Market Choices program

Agriculture.com Staff 10/21/2008 @ 9:59am

The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) will phase out its grain marketing program and certification mark, Market Choices, by fall 2009.

The Market Choices certification mark was established in 2002 to help growers and grain handlers identify non-European Union (EU) approved corn hybrids. However, ASTA opted to suspend the program due to the EU's lack of timely regulatory approvals for corn biotech traits. Lack of approvals has essentially stopped the trade of U.S. corn, corn gluten feed and distillers dried grains and solubles (DDGS) with the EU.

ASTA officials say although corn biotech traits have been rapidly developed and adopted over the last 13 years, EU regulatory approvals for grain and other feed products derived from this technology have lagged behind U.S. and global approvals. A zero tolerance for traits not fully approved in the EU has made importation of U.S. corn and derived products virtually impossible since 2007.

Representatives of the European agricultural industry have requested the European Commission (EC) allow a tolerance for biotechnology traits not yet approved in Europe, but approved in the country of origin. The Commission and EU member states failed to agree on the adoption of a tolerance at a most recent meeting at the end of September.

"Discussions have been held in the EU seeking an allowable tolerance for biotech traits approved in the U.S. but not in the EU to facilitate trade, but there is no indication that such a tolerance, if granted, would be at a commercially viable level for exports to continue from the United States," says ASTA President and CEO Andy LaVigne. "Most importantly, the EU regulatory system continues to be unpredictable with respect to the review and approval of biotechnology products, which negatively impacts Europe's feed and livestock industries, growers, and ultimately consumers.

ASTA has worked over the last year with its members and stakeholders in the agricultural value chain to evaluate the future of the Market Choices certification mark. "We reviewed the effectiveness, usefulness and value of the certification mark. After careful consideration, ASTA decided to suspend the use of the Market Choices certification mark and program over the next year," says LaVigne. "However, the seed industry will continue to assist stakeholders by providing information regarding regulatory approval of biotech events in export markets to growers through the National Corn Growers Association and their related program, Know Before You Grow."

ASTA stresses the importance of finding an approved market for grain derived from biotech products.

LaVigne also notes if the EC should provide for a commercially viable tolerance or demonstrate a functioning regulatory system for the approval of biotech events, ASTA will evaluate its decision.

The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) will phase out its grain marketing program and certification mark, Market Choices, by fall 2009.

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