- As previously reported on this blog, legislation requiring labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods and food ingredients was signed into law on July 29, 2016. This law directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop regulations and standards to create mandatory disclosure requirements for bio-engineered foods by July 2018. On June 28, 2017, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) posted a list of 30 questions to obtain stakeholder input to facilitate the drafting of mandatory disclosure requirements to implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law. One of those questions is:
- “Will AMS require disclosure for food that contains highly refined products, such as oils or sugars derived from bioengineered crops?”
- USDA has not yet posted the comments it has received, which were due by August 25, 2017; however, several organizations have posted the comments they submitted in response to the questions. Among the organizations supporting disclosure were the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA), the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA)and the Consumers Union. Noting that excluding highly refined ingredients (HRI) from the scope of the mandatory disclosure standard would result in roughly 80% fewer products being subject to the disclosure requirements under the federal law, GMA wrote, “A clear, simple, and consistent mandatory disclosure standard that includes HRI will assist manufacturers in educating consumers about biotechnology as a safe and beneficial method of plant breeding.”
- In contrast, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) are opposed to mandatory disclosure of HRI. ITIF suggested that some refined products do not contain residual DNA sequences and that “[t]here are not analytical methods that would allow such products to be identified as coming from ‘GM’ plants or animals vs. others.”
- While USDA develops mandatory disclosure requirements for bio-engineered foods, a number of class action laws suit have been filed suggesting that products containing GM ingredients are falsely labeled as natural. For example, last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a bid by Conagra Brands Inc. to avoid a class-action lawsuit concerning cooking oil labeled 100% natural that contains GM ingredients (see S. News). And earlier this month, Frito-Lay North America agreed to not make any non-GMO claims on certain products “unless the claim is certified by an independent third-party certification organization”(see Food Navigator).
- We will continue to monitor developments on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and report them to you here.
On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems. The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation.
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:
- USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
- Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
- Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
- University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:
- Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
- Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
- Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
- University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.
More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.
Read more legal analysis at the National Law Review.
It has been nearly 14 weeks since President Donald Trump nominated Sonny Perdue, former two-term governor of Georgia, to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). His long wait for formal confirmation is likely to come to an end this week. The Senate is scheduled to hold a confirmation vote late Monday afternoon, where Perdue is expected to receive bipartisan support.
Perdue easily secured the Senate Agriculture Committee’s support at its business meeting on March 30 by a 19-1 vote; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) voiced her opposition to his nomination and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) – cousin of Sonny Perdue – declined to participate because of their close connection. Senator Gillibrand requested her opposition be recorded, noting her disapproval of how certain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) issues in the State of Georgia were handled by then-Governor Perdue. However, Sonny Perdue is one of President Trump’s more uncontroversial Cabinet choices, and he notably boasts the support of the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who has made clear her support for the Senate to swiftly confirm Perdue for the top USDA spot.
A formal swearing-in ceremony for Perdue, likely to be held later this week, will officially recognize Perdue as the 31st Secretary of Agriculture.
This Week’s Legislative Activities:
On Monday, April 24, the Senate will hold a vote on confirmation of the nomination of Sonny Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture.
© Copyright 2017 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
On January 12, 2017, USDA released a report on the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of corn ethanol, titled “A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol.” The study reviewed industry and farm sector performance over the past decade and found that in the United States corn-based ethanol generates 43 percent less GHG emissions than gasoline. Compared to previous studies, the lifecycle GHG benefits were greater due to improvements in corn production efficiency, conservation practices, and ethanol production technologies. The report also presented two projected GHG emissions profiles for corn ethanol in 2022, with one assuming a continuation of observable trends and the other analyzing additional improvements that could further reduce the GHG emissions.
©2017 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
On May 9, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the recipients of up to $10 million in funding through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). BRDI is a joint program through DOE and USDA that helps develop sustainable sources of biomass and increase the availability of biobased fuels and products. DOE selected two of the grant winners to receive between $1 million and $2 million: the Ohio State University (OSU) project is “Biomass Gasification for Chemicals Production Using Chemical Looping Techniques,” and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) project is “Improving Tolerance of Yeast to Lignocellulose-derived Feedstocks and Products.”
University of California-Riverside, to convert poplar to ethanol and polyurethane via pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis;
University of Montana, to quantify ecological and economic opportunities of various forest types and to quantify benefits of replacing fossil fuel with forest-based bioenergy;
North Carolina Biotechnology Center, to optimize production of educational resources on biomass sorghum production in the Mid-Atlantic region;
Dartmouth College, to overcome the lignocellulosic recalcitrance barrier; and
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, to provide life cycle understanding for the production of willow and forest biomass to mitigate investment risk.
©2016 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
In November, the USDA announced a final rule that will align the Agency’s import regulations for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”)with international standards. According to a USDA November news release, the final regulation will allow for the safe trade of bovines and bovine product, while still protecting the U.S. from the introduction of BSE.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow praised the new rule by stating, “I applaud USDA’s actions to make sure that American’s beef producers have access to new export markets…This effort is crucial to breaking down other countries’ unfounded trade barriers, and re-opening trade markets that are closed to U.S. beef. American agriculture has long set the gold standard food production. [These] actions will ensure U.S. beef producers can operate on a more level playing field and help grow our agriculture economy.”