DES MOINES (DTN)--Members of the National Corn Growers Association and the US Grains Council recently returned from a weeklong trip to the European Union, where they met with officials to discuss the EU's moratorium on biotechnology.

The U.S. representatives traveled to England, Ireland, France and Germany. NCGA President Fred Yoder said the trip was a success.

"We had a good trip and it was one of the best missions we've ever been on," he said in a press release. "If you look at where we started three years ago, then look at this trip, you see the progression. There are some definite changes in Europe and I think we're on the verge of getting something done this time."

Yoder, a corn grower from Plain City, OH, was joined on the trip by NCGA's president elect Dee Vaughan, biotech working group chairman Leon Corzine and CEO Rick Tolman. Representatives from the USGC were president and CEO Ken Hobbie, chairman Don Jacoby and director of biotechnology David McGuire.

During the trip, the NCGA and USGC met with European Commission representatives and members of the European Parliament. Yoder said the EU officials were receptive to the US message, despite some initial issues concerning the ongoing US case against the EU with the World Trade Organization.

"As farm as the moratorium on biotech crops goes, it looks very positive," Yoder said. "The WTO has a 60-day comment period on this suit and the representatives we spoke to told us they would like to lift the moratorium before the comment period ends, so the WTO ruling would immediately go away."

While some issues like the safety of biotech food have been resolved, Yoder said new ones have become apparent. Environmental concerns are now the big battle.

"I think they are finally realizing that is not a valid argument and now they are shifting their concerns to environmental issues and we have a great argument against those concerns as well."

Throughout their trip, Yoder, Vaughan and Corzine told EU officials that they grow biotech crops because of the environmental benefits to their farms.

"We told them US farmers save 1 billion tons of topsoil every year because of conservation tillage," Yoder said in the press release. "Conservation tillage has increased 35% over the past couple of years due to biotech and we've saved over 47 million pounds of insecticides and pesticide a year by using biotech."

Upon his return from Europe, Yoder said he felt a sense of accomplishment regarding the trip. He said the tide has begun to change and people who have not weighed in on the biotech issue before are now speaking their minds.

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