The U.S. is Korea’s top supplier for a wide variety of agricultural products. As one of the world’s top importers of commodity grain, Korea stands as a critical export market for Iowa corn and soybeans. Because Korea sources commodity grains from the U.S. and other regions of the world where biotechnology crops dominate, Korean regulators are constantly challenged in dealing with the evaluation and approval of new biotechnology traits and trait combinations in grain or feed and food products that may contain biotechnology traits. In addition, Korean agricultural businesses, regulators, and scientists have been working diligently to gain introduction of biotechnology crops for cultivation in Korea where very conservative and precautionary attitudes are common.
Jeff Wolt, Iowa State professor of agronomy and biosafety risk analyst within the Seed Science Center’s Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products (BIGMAP), has been working with Korean scientists, regulators, and agricultural businesses for more than 10 years to develop capacity for biosafety assessment of biotechnology crops. Wolt first visited Korea in 2006 to conduct a seminar on evaluation of biotechnology crops using principles of Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) at the National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology, Suwon.
2016 Biotech Activities in Seoul, Jeonju
In early 2016, Wolt evaluated progress in biosafety capacity development in Korea by participating in an industry roundtable on risk analysis for GMOs hosted in Seoul by International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Asia. In addition, Wolt presented a seminar on problem formulation in ERA, for members of the Korean Rural Development Administration (RDA) at Chonbuk National University, Jeonju. Despite a well-trained staff of regulators within the RDA supported by academic experts on the Korean national biosafety committee, Korea has been cautious in the implementation of standards for commercial use of biotechnology crops. They continue to find challenges regarding their obligations as signatories to the Cartagena Protocol.
Korea Biosafety Evaluation Team, Free Trade Delegation Visit ISU
Wolt had the opportunity for further interactions in 2016 when a Korean Biosafety Evaluation Team, which included members of the Korean national biosafety committee, visited Ames in July hosted by the U.S. Grains Council. Wolt gave a presentation on “BIGMAP and Biosafety” and spent the day working through extensive lists of questions prepared by the group in advance of their visit. Wolt’s presentation and discussion helped to clarify for the delegation the various players and activities critical to international biosafety harmonization.
In August, a Korean Free Trade Agreement Delegation comprised of experts from the Korean Customs Service visited Ames with sponsorship from the U.S. Department of State. Wolt and the group discussed biosafety in relation to grain and processed product imports to Korea. The group expressed gratitude that the discussion was directed towards the broader needs and activities centered on biotech crop regulation in Korea.
Photo caption: Organizers and presenters of an Ecological Risk Assessment Workshop held at the Chonbuk National University in Jeonju, Korea, included (from left) Haksoo Kim, Country Director U.S. Grains Council; Jeff Wolt, Iowa State; Andrew Roberts, ILSI-CERA; Michael Dornbusch, Australian Office of the Gene Technology Regulator; and Se-Young Kim, DowAgroSciences.