WASHINGTON (B)--U.S. agriculture interests came out of the recent biosafety protocol negotiations relatively unscathed, and the agreement shouldn't disrupt trade of U.S. genetically modified crops, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Feb. 17.

Last month in Montreal, UN member nations held talks on the protocol, which is a series of rules governing trade of gene-altered crops. Since negotiations are not yet complete and more then 50 nations need to ratify the agreement before it is enacted, the rules are not expected to take effect until a few years from now.

On Feb. 17, Timothy Galvin, the administrator of USDA's Foreign Agriculture Service, and various other U.S. officials briefed reporters on the negotiations via a teleconference.

U.S. officials went into last month's negotiations concerned that the protocol could set out requirements that would hinder U.S. genetically modified crop exports, such as mandate the segregation of gene-altered crops from non-modified crops in export shipments.

But according to Galvin, last month's talks ended with bulk commodities such as corn and soybeans largely exempt from the protocol's provisions, which is what U.S. officials were pushing for.

"We are very satisfied that the way we came out is good," said Frank Loy, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, who joined Galvin in the teleconference.

As it stands now, one of the main provisions of the protocol is that it would require exports of planting seeds to come with documentation that the shipments may contain "modified organisms" if the seeds are gene-altered.

However, Galvin said this should not be a significant blow for U.S. exports, as most companies in the industry are following that practice anyway.

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