USSEC is raising the voice of science and sustainability in U.S. soybean trade to Taiwan while offering consumers the choice of both genetically modified organism (GMO) and non-GMO U.S. soybeans.
In 2014/2015, the United States ranked #1 with $669 million in total soybean sales to the island nation that depends on imports. Yet, consumer and political challenges to biotechnology confront U.S. soybean exports.
Starting in 2015, Taiwan required companies to label GMO soybeans and food products, such as soybean milk, tofu, and soybean protein products entering the country. By October 2015, street vendors and small stores had to label raw materials. Effective January 2016, businesses were obligated to label GMO food products such as soy sauce. Meanwhile, U.S. exporters must prove traceability and face more customs requirements and paperwork.
USSEC has used soybean checkoff and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP) funds to assist U.S. exporters and assure Taiwan’s soy food companies and their customers that U.S. Soy is safe and sustainable. In 2015, USSEC established a website to share solutions with soy food processors on how to respond to consumer concerns regarding the safety of their soy foods that contain biotechnology ingredients.
MAP funds also assisted USSEC in convening a Biotech Soybean Education Forum in July 2015.
A post-forum survey showed that more than 80 percent of the participants became more confident in the safety of GMOs. These results form a foundation for USSEC’s MAP-funded 2016 sustainability education that faces an internet-based anti-GMO campaign. USSEC is working with Taiwanese companies that will add a new “Sustainable U.S. Soy” logo to their products.
Even with heightened regulatory requirements, Taiwan’s consumption of U.S. Soy remains high and stable, including through foods, such as tofu and soymilk. The USDA reports that in 2015, the U.S. exported 280 thousand metric tons (TMT) of soybeans for food utilization, including 26 TMT of non-GMO soybeans valued at $20 million USD.