Economic Tidbits

Biotechnology & Trade

International trade and biotechnology are two factors which will play important roles in the future of production agriculture. The issues surrounding both are intertwined. Policies and regulations for agricultural biotechnology will affect global trade in agricultural products, food security, and sustainability. As such, the Clayton Yeutter Institute of International Trade and Finance at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln convened a roundtable in March to discuss issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology and trade. The roundtable brought together high-level government officials, farmers, academics, and practitioners in plant genetics and agricultural sciences. The Yeutter Institute report, The Future of U.S. Agricultural Biotechnology and Trade: Summary of a Roundtable Discussion, released in October summarizes the discussion.

Several common themes regarding biotechnology and trade emerged from the discussion. First, a growing world population and changing climate will dictate the need for increased agricultural productivity. Innovation and biotechnology are musts for increased productivity. Second, the U.S. regulatory regime for biotechnology is convoluted, costly, and needs streamlining. The regime negatively impacts innovators, and if not reformed, investors in innovation could go elsewhere like Brazil. It is important for U.S. trading partners to adopt science-based regulatory approaches to biotechnology. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was the first U.S. trade agreement to include agricultural biotechnology provisions. Future trade agreements should incorporate similar provisions. Finally, China is an important market for U.S. agriculture and wants to become dominant in biotechnology. History has shown the Chinese government will approve Chinese-developed technology but not innovation developed elsewhere. It is incumbent on U.S. trade negotiators to push China to adopt transparent, science-and risk-based approaches to approving new traits no matter where they are developed.

The discussion and subsequent report provided insights towards understanding issues surrounding biotechnology and trade. Establishing good policies and practices around these factors will be important for production agriculture. The Yeutter Institute report can be found here.

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