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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: CAP set for delay, UN climate report, cell-based meat

Next CAP may not be agreed until 2023, climate report encourages diet and land use change, cell-based meat development outpacing regulatory framework

A lack of clarity over the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), largely due to the uncertainty around Brexit, could mean the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will not be implemented until 2023.

Sources speaking with IEG Policy last week said that slow progress in negotiations between member states over a first position on the next CAP has led to doubts among senior European Commission officials that the new policy will enter into force on time in 2021.

With the European Parliament also said to be months away from finalizing its position, IEG Policy understands that the new policy may not be implemented until 2022 or even the following year.

Under the European Commission’s original proposals presented in June 2018, member states were expected to submit their Strategic Plans to the Commission for review by January 1, 2020. After factoring in any adjustments, the EU executive would then approve the plans within eight months and the expenditure under the new CAP could start in January 2021.

However, this schedule has been strongly disrupted by Brexit – the deadline for which has been extended to October 31 – and its impact on the next EU budget.

The majority of Agriculture Ministers have explicitly tied their decision on the CAP to the next MFF, refusing to adopt a common position on the policy until there is clarity on its future budget.

Yet both the Parliament and the Council were not even ready yet to start the budgetary negotiations for the farming policy in June, the Commission had revealed in an update.

The EU executive has tried to put pressure on the co-legislators to make urgent progress on the MFF negotiations, but a final agreement is only expected to be reached by the end of the year.

Climate report

Meanwhile, the CAP “needs wholescale transformation to end the harmful environmental impacts of agriculture”, according to a number of environmental NGOs reacting to the release of a new UN report on the effects of land use on climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on August 8 and titled ‘Climate Change and Land’, assessed greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes in land-based ecosystems, land use and sustainable land management in relation to climate change adaptation and mitigation, desertification, land degradation and food security.

It made a number of recommendations, including encouraging a move towards balanced diets with plant-based foods and “animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems”. This dietary change has the potential to mitigate 0.7-8.0 gigatons of annual CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050, it says.

Changes to crop, livestock and agroforestry activity could also mitigate 2.3-9.6 gigatons by the middle of this century, it added.

Groups such as BirdLife Europe said the report confirmed that current farming practices are driving a “climate catastrophe” instead of rebuilding soil carbon, natural vegetation and biodiversity.

Greenpeace, Birdlife Europe and WWF also all highlighted the need to reduce global meat and dairy production, especially in regions where these products are being overconsumed.

But farming groups such as the German farmers’ union, DBV, concluded that only sustainable yield increases worldwide can protect the climate.

German farmers are ready to increase their contributions to climate protection through the expansion of bio-energy, the cultivation of renewable raw materials, and CO2-capture in soils. “We are convinced that agriculture will be part of the solution,” DBV president Joachim Rukwied said.

Cell-based meat

Meanwhile, a former leading FDA attorney has warned that the speed at which companies in the cell-based meat sector are developing new products could mean they outpace the regulatory framework for such products to hit the US market place.

"The bottom line is there are many, many things that need to happen here before there is anything approximating a clear and – even remotely understandable – pathway for commercial entities to follow," said Stuart Pape, who formerly served as associate chief counsel for food in FDA's Office of the Chief Counsel prior to his current role as chair of the Polsinelli law firm's FDA Practice Group.

"I think there is an excellent chance that a commercial entity will be ready, in their view, to go to market before the regulators are ready and that will present an interesting dilemma for both."

While the FDA and USDA have made great strides in crafting a regulatory framework for cell-based meat, that dilemma could come to a head sooner, rather than later, said Pape.

"I think companies are likely within 12 months to be ready to introduce a limited array of products," he said during a webinar on cell-based meat, sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by FDA and USDA in March provides a basic roadmap for regulation but "raises nearly as many questions as it answers and doesn't give much insight into the timing for the resolution of these issues," Pape said.

The MOU lays out joint oversight between the two agencies for cell-based meat made from poultry and livestock, with FDA taking the lead at the beginning of the process. FDA is effectively tasked with premarket consultations and oversight of cell collection, development and production through the time of harvest.

Once the cells are harvested, oversight shifts to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which will regulate the production and labeling of cell-based meat products. Oversight of any cell-based seafood – other than catfish – will be solely the responsibility of FDA.

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