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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: Glyphosate study ruling, digitalization of agriculture, Gottlieb to step down from FDA

EU General Court ruling could lay down rules for transparency, female farming leaders call for gender balancing measures in next CAP, USDA/FDA agree on joint oversight of cell-based meat

In what was described as a “landmark” ruling, the EU General Court last week ruled that studies on the toxicology and carcinogenicity of controversial herbicide glyphosate should be made public – potentially leading to significant changes in the EU approval process for plant protection products going forward.

This article provides a review of the most significant talking points in the food and agriculture policy sphere for the past seven days. Select the links below to access the full story. To add channels or to take a free trial follow this link or see the instructions on the article page.

The March 7 ruling joined two cases together, one brought by a Brussels-based consultant to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on toxicology issues, Anthony C. Tweedale, in 2014, the other in 2017 by four Green MEPs Heidi Hautala, Michèle Rivasi, Benedek Jávor and Bart Staes. 

Both challenged the right of the European Food Safety Authority to keep key confidential documents used in the EU risk assessment leading up to the renewal of glyphosate’s authorisation.

EFSA welcomed the decision as, according to a spokesperson, “it provides orientation for EFSA and others charged with interpreting EU legislation on public access to documents.” The organization has two months to respond and appeal should it choose to do so.

NGOs and policy makers have responded by saying this ruling lays the groundwork for new transparency requirements that will be introduced after a revision of the general food law regulation is adopted this Spring.

Women in farming, digital technologies

Ahead of last week’s International Women’s Day, female farming leaders in the EU called out widespread discrimination and structural inequalities in the agriculture sector.

Speakers at the ‘Strong Rural Women for Strong Rural Europe’ event highlighted the challenges faced by women in farming and food production, and insisted that the next Common Agricultural Policy must come up with measures to advance gender equality in rural areas.

Meanwhile, a group of academics presented the findings of a report on the implications of the digitalisation of agriculture, the food chain and the CAP at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Agriculture committee.

Among the conclusions were that the Internet of Things (IoT), robotization, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data will have the highest impact on the agri-food value chain, while blockchain, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Virtual Reality will only have a “medium” impact.

Gottlieb resigns, cell-based meat, farm incomes

In the US, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb made the surprise announcement that he is resigning from his role, citing time apart from his young family as the reason behind his decision.

He will stay on in the role for the next few weeks to help secure the department’s 2020 budget and help with the transition to new leadership.

Despite his relatively short tenure, Gottlieb has been credited with making an impact in many areas of food safety as well as nutrition issues.

USDA and FDA have released a joint statement to announce a formal agreement to oversee the growing cell-cultured meat sector.

Under the agreement, FDA will conduct premarket consultations, and oversee cell collection, development and production through the time of harvest. Oversight will shift to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) during the cell harvest stage and FSIS will then oversee the production and labeling of cell-based meat products.

An analysis of the impact of the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, since renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), found that the US will sacrifice US$1.8 billion per year in food and ag exports as a result – but could see export gains of $2.9bn per year if it rejoined.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service last week predicted a 10% increase in US net farm income in 2019, compared with 2018 levels, to just short of $70 billion. However, net farm income last year fell by $12bn from 2017.

In case you missed it…

Other articles of note from IEG Policy last week:

Commission calls on ECJ to fine Greece over failure to prevent nitrate pollution of water

Malmström: EU agrees trade reforms by China are essential

GFSI survey shows huge majority see food safety certification as key to international trade

UK trade minister defends tariff-quota stance, talks due to start a week before Brexit

Hog farm nuisance verdict could set 'disastrous' precedent, ag groups warn

USDA steps up actions to prevent ASF

Trade turbulence continues to hit global growth: OECD

Week Ahead and updates

US Washington week ahead: Budget key focus along with trade & tax issues

EU agriculture policy diary (March 11-15): CAP reform, spirit drinks, UTPs

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