The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) is suspending Market Choices, the grain-marketing program and certification mark, and the program will be phased out by the fall of 2009.

The Market Choices program began in 2002 to help producers and the grain-marketing channel identify corn hybrids not approved in the European Union and segregate the grain away from the EU export market. Since 2007, a zero tolerance for traits not fully approved in the EU has made it virtually impossible for the EU to import U.S. corn and derived products, diminishing the program’s value.

“Discussions have been held in the EU seeking an allowable tolerance for biotech traits approved in the U.S. but not in the EU to facilitate trade, but there is no indication that such a tolerance, if granted, would be at a commercially viable level for exports to continue from the United States,” says Andy LaVigne, president and CEO of ASTA. “We reviewed the effectiveness, usefulness and value of the certification mark. After careful consideration, ASTA decided to suspend the use of the Market Choices certification mark and program over the next year.”

LaVigne says programs will remain in place to provide information regarding regulatory approval of biotech events in export markets, and if the EU should provide for a commercially viable tolerance or demonstrate a functioning regulatory system for the approval of biotech traits, the program will be reevaluated.

“This decision is a reaction to the real situation in the EU,” says Jerry Harrington, spokesman for Pioneer. “As an ASTA member, we support the decision and look forward to a more timely biotech approval process or a more realistic tolerance program from the EU.”