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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: Farewell to FDA’s Gottlieb, EU single use plastic ban, new fertilizer rules

In other news, Brexit impasse in UK continues but EU and Ireland say they are ready for ‘no deal’

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will leave his role at the end of this week (April 5) but the reorganization he set out early in his tenure finally came into effect yesterday (March 31).

This article provides a review of the most significant talking points in the food and agriculture policy sphere for the past seven days.

One of the most significant changes to the FDA organization will see all center directors report directly to the Commissioner, rather than deputy commissioners, from now on, which Gottlieb explained last week was important “not only to advance policy but to maintain perspective on what was going on and help the centers solve their problems.”

The reorganization will also see changes to the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition with structures within the Office of Cosmetics and Colors (OCAC) and the Office of Food Additive Safety (OFAS) adjusted.

Gottlieb said the changes will be rolled out in phases in a “thoughtful, manageable, and realistic pace so as not to interfere with day-to-day operations.”

In one of his final acts as Commissioner, Gottlieb answered questions on FDA’s plans for CBD products, terminology for plant-based ‘dairy’ products and cell-based meat at a Senate Committee on Appropriations subcommittee hearing, at which he backed the agency’s FY 2020 proposed budget.

FDA overall is slated to receive $3.326 billion in budget authority or $6.1 billion in total funding with user fees, which represents a 12% ($643 million) increase over funding in FY 2019.

Gottlieb also affirmed last week that the FDA will continue to advance efforts from his Nutrition Innovation Strategy after his departure and plans to release a proposed rule to define the ‘healthy’ labelling claim as early as the end of this year.

National Cancer Institute Director Norman "Ned" Sharpless has been named as FDA’s acting commissioner and will oversee the newly reorganized agency as of next week.

Parliament votes on plastic packaging, fertilizer rules

In the EU, the European Parliament approved two significant pieces of legislation for the food and farming sectors.

First, it passed a deal with the EU Council and European Commission on a directive that will ban some single use plastics, and restrict the use of others, by a huge 560 votes in favour, with just 35 against and 28 abstentions.

The directive, which will come into effect in 2021, will see single use plastics banned where affordable alternatives are available, such as plastic cutlery, plates and straws, as well as oxo-degradable plastic and expanded polystyrene take-away food and drink containers.

In addition, the directive will apply a 25% target for recycled content in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles by 2025 then by 2030 all bottles must be made from at least 30% recycled materials.

There will also be mandatory labelling on plastic cups about the negative environmental impact of littering and advising consumers on disposal.

Parliament also last week approved new rules that will introduce EU-wide limits on the presence of heavy metals such as cadmium in phosphate fertilizers.

The cadmium content in “CE-marked” phosphate fertilisers will be limited to 60 mg/kg, yet this requirement will only be applied three years after the Regulation enters into force.

“The new rules include reasonable limits for contaminants,” said Italian MEP Elisabetta Gardini (EPP), who was in charge of the legislative file. “A single, harmonised limit is finally in place at European level for all contaminants, especially for cadmium, which is the one that worries member states the most.”

A review clause requires the European Commission to re-evaluate the limit values after the rules have been in force for seven years, so that the EU executive can assess whether it is feasible to introduce further reductions.

The Regulation now only needs to be formally approved by the Council of Ministers before it can enter into force.

For more details on the proposed cadmium limits in EU fertilisers, IEG Policy’s sister analyst Fertecon has produced and published a White Paper that can be found here.

Brexit deadlock

In the UK, the House of Commons failed to find a consensus on a different path for Brexit with a number of alternative proposals, including a customs union and revocation of Article 50, failing to find a majority of support following an indicative vote by MPs.

At the end of the week - March 29, which was the original ‘Brexit Day’ prior to the EU agreement on an extension - MPs also rejected the Withdrawal Agreement, put to the house excluding the accompanying Political Declaration, for a third time – albeit by a smaller margin than the previous two attempts.

Prime minister Theresa May expressed her disappointment at the result but said the government would continue to push for an "orderly exit" from the EU, which is now looking increasingly like it will be April 12.

Today (April 1), MPs will take part in a second round of votes on alternative Brexit proposals to try to see if any commands a majority.

The EU has revealed that it has now completed preparations for a so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit should the UK fail to break the Commons impasse, with a series of documents on contingency measures published.

Ireland’s agriculture minister Michael Creed has also promised farmers “substantial aid” if they suffer reduced market access to the UK, while also applying for funds direct from the European Commission.

The UK’s environment secretary Michael Gove also revealed that direct subsidies to the sheep meat sector is also under consideration if a ‘no deal’ Brexit were to occur, while also admitting that the UK’s border plans for Northern Ireland could be challenged at the World Trade Organization if they came into effect.  

In case you missed it…

Other notable articles published on IEG Policy last week:

High-tech CAP monitoring approach still needs to be worked out, Czech paying agency warns

EU Court to rule on ground-breaking origin labelling case

EU set to trigger new row over GIs with registration of Havarti cheese

Is the EU a ‘museum of agriculture’? This outdated label should be consigned to history

Soy growers voice concern over Trump China tariff remarks

USDA’s biotechnology disclosure rule confuses industry, consumers, panel says

Brazilian ag minister reassures beef sector over US trade talks

Jury rules Monsanto must pay cancer victim $80 million

Week ahead and updates

EU agriculture policy diary (April 1-5): CAP reform, Ukraine poultry dispute

US Washington week ahead: US-China trade talks and disaster aid in focus

This week in Food Chemical News Guide

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