CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Innovation and trade should not be suppressed as the global demand for food continues to rapidly increase, according to a former chief agricultural trade negotiator.

Dick Crowder, former chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and former undersecretary of agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs, spoke of the critically important role of trade in meeting food security during the recent International Biotechnology Symposium.

More than 200 biotechnology regulators, international trade experts and farmers from 16 countries on five continents met at the symposium to discuss the state of the agricultural biotechnology regulatory systems and its implications for the future, as well as explore some solutions.

The symposium was hosted by the Illinois Soybean Association.

Referring to Steve Jobs’ quote, “we are just one world now,” Crowder said, “that best describes what we are in agriculture and where we are in biotech.”

“Policies related to technology and biotech should encourage the adoption of technology and should emphasize efficient trade flows,” he said.

World demand for food is projected to double in the first half of this century, fueled by income growth, urbanization and population growth.

“We do know that we cannot meet this demand with roughly 10 percent more arable, we cannot meet it with less water, we cannot meet it with less labor because of urbanization, we cannot meet it with the same technology and we cannot meet it with the same policies — that’s a given,” Crowder said.

“Instead, we’re going to have to have new technology, and this includes agronomic technology, transportation technology. It also includes processing technology. It’s a system. Biotech is just one component of this.”

A shift in crop production locations also is projected.

“I emphasize this because of the importance that trade is going to play to provide food security. (U.S. Department of Agriculture) projections are that the U.S. is going to increase its share of the corn export market by ten percentage points,” Crowder said.

“Brazil and Argentina are going to increase their share of the soybean market by roughly 10 percentage points. China is going to increase its share of consumption. So the amount that has to move in trade is going to increase tremendously.”

Crowder said some question if food production can be doubled over the next four decades.

“My answer is, ‘Yes, we can get there.’ We have doubters that say we can’t, but good old agriculture has proved the doubters wrong since the time of (Thomas) Malthus,” he said.

Without efficient trade flows “we cannot solve the food security problem,” Crowder said. “Policies that undermine efficient trade flows decrease food security, and they increase the volatility in supply and demand, hurting both the supplier and the customer.

“In the new global environment, the best source of food security will not be found in the concept of self-sufficiency, but will be found in reliable trading partners.

“Unpredictable suppliers will become suppliers of last resort, and uncertainty created by customers because of lack of biotech approvals will result in a rich premium that they pay for their product.”

Crowder noted the potential biotech trade disruption points.

“The variations in risk assessment and approval systems are particularly problematic,” he said.

“Risk assessment is a precautionary principal and if it were to be accepted would be particularly problematic. It must be guarded against in free trade agreements and in the World Trade Organization.

“It’s been a longstanding issue in trade negotiations, and it could be a real issue in the U.S.-European Union trade negotiations.”

“Asynchronous approval is costly in terms of time to commercialization and in trade risk. Zero tolerance on the (low level presence of genetically modified organisms) increases risk that the seed in commercial products will be subject to disruptions.

“And, finally, there are the completely arbitrary restrictions imposed strictly for political or protectionist reasons.”

Crowder said those potential disruptions are not theoretical.

Examples of trade disruptions that have occurred include the EU beef hormone case in 1989 that “hasn’t been resolved yet — it’s strictly based on precautionary principles,” he said.

“The EU biotech case is a precautionary principle. The exclusion of Chinese cooked poultry into the U.S. is a U.S. barrier that has its roots in politics.

“U.S. beef to China is rooted in politics and in trade barriers. The U.S. beef to Japan, which we recently solved, had its roots in protectionism disguising themselves as food safety.”

Crowder noted the policy template the negotiating team utilized during his time as chief ag negotiator.

“We did not always achieve 100 percent of this, but I found it to be useful and I think it is useful today,” he said. “The risk assessment and approval system should be science-based, resulting in sound decisions, not arbitrary movements. It should be transparent where all sides understand the process and the outcome.

“They should be predictable to remove uncertainty. It should be timely with no unnecessary delays such as caused by the asynchronization and so forth. It should be consistent with the World Trade Organization standards.

“Lastly is communications. In all of the agreements we looked at, we wanted a consultant mechanism in there.

“You force yourself to sit down and meet at least once a year to head off problems or to solve problems. These could be real or imaginary problems, but the communication process needs to be there and it needs to stay.

“Such an approach, in my opinion, promotes the efficiency of free trade flows and I think will continue to do that.

“In the first half of this century, we will see the largest rural-to-urban migration we’ve seen in history. Think about what that does for labor in the rural areas. We’ll most likely see the largest shift in regional income generation that we’ve ever seen before.

“We will see the largest increase in global food demand. This means that we collectively have to get our policies in trade and technologies correct. We cannot afford to suppress innovation or trade.”