Agricultural innovation continues to develop rapidly, benefiting farmers who are able to grow more and better crops using fewer inputs and natural resources. As governments around the world work to determine how to regulate these ever-evolving technologies, MAIZALL, the international maize alliance, is encouraging countries to adopt science-based policies to prevent disruptions to trade.
MAIZALL was formed in January 2013 by the corn growers associations in Argentina, Brazil and the United States to work together to tackle global market access barriers related to the introduction of new technologies in agriculture, particularly biotechnology. The alliance focuses on three areas: communicating the benefits of modern agricultural production methods and technologies, addressing asynchronous approval of biotech products and promoting regulatory harmonization.
During an October mission to Geneva and Rome, a group of MAIZALL leaders met with World Trade Organization (WTO) and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) officials and member country delegations to stress the importance of innovation to agriculture and the need for science-based decision-making on biotechnology, newer breeding techniques and pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs), among other topics.
“Talking to one another on a country-to-country level provides pressure that can lead to policy changes,” said Pam Johnson, past MAIZALL president and Iowa corn farmer, who participated in the mission. “Discussions and policy decisions at the international organization level are influential in shaping legislation and regulations, especially in developing countries.”
The MAIZALL delegation included Johnson; Cesario Ramalho, MAIZALL president from Brazil; Juan Minvielle, MAIZALL board member from Argentina; Benno van der Laan, MAIZALL coordinator; Allison Nepveux, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) manager of trade policy; and Lesly McNitt, National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) director of public policy.
The delegation met with representatives from four major importing countries – the European Union, China, South Korea and Japan. MAIZALL delegates emphasized the importance of private sector engagement and the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee as a platform for discussion.
At the WTO, MAIZALL encouraged other government bodies to sign on to an international statement supporting agricultural applications of precision biotechnology. The statement was signed by a diverse set of nations, including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Paraguay, Uruguay, Vietnam and the secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), with more nations expected to sign on.
“Farmers continually need to broaden access to new tools to improve productivity, plant and animal health and environmental sustainability; and to help address global challenges such as climate change, pest and disease pressures, the safety and security of worldwide food supplies as well as meet consumer preferences and demands for healthier, high quality foods at affordable prices,” the statement reads.
“Government policies must continue to foster innovation, including in the public sector and by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and mitigate against unintended, unnecessary barriers to entry of agriculture products.”
The MAIZALL mission also met with the FAO Deputy Director General and five senior members of his staff as well as Italy’s primary farmers union. During the FAO meetings, MAIZALL members were encouraged to increase engagement and information-sharing – particularly from the farmer perspective – as international dialogue continues.
“Given the current tensions in international trade relations, exporting countries like Argentina and Brazil have to become more vocal on agricultural issues,” said Cesario Ramalho, MAIZALL president from Brazil. “It is important for us to continue to build alliances and share staff and resources to ensure incoming governments and officials in MAIZALL countries stay active in these discussions.”
MAIZALL plans to continue to emphasize the importance of innovation in agriculture through official WTO and FAO channels and participation in conferences and missions in importing countries.