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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: New EU Commissioners, German glyphosate ban, sugar measures

Germany has followed in the footsteps of Austria and France and announced plans to ban glyphosate whilst the European Commission is to appoint a Pole as the next Agriculture Commissioner.

IEG Policy reported last week how Poland’s Janusz Wojciechowski looks set to be the next EU Agriculture Commissioner. The current incumbent, Ireland’s Phil Hogan, is moving to replace Cecilia Malmström as Trade Commissioner.

Wojciechowski’s appointment, due to be confirmed on Tuesday (September 10th), would not be a surprise considering Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she wanted Poland to take up the agriculture portfolio, although Wojciechowski was not the original choice as Poland’s nominee.

Also, lawmaker Stella Kyriakides is set to take on the role as head of DG Sante, replacing Lithuania’s Vytenis Andriukaitis.

A clinical psychologist by training, she is a long-standing campaigner on breast cancer and has previously worked on health policy issues in the Cypriot legislature.

In the US, IEG Policy reported last week how the Trump Administration appeared under pressure to appoint a permanent head of the FDA.

While reports suggest the administration might be looking outside FDA for a permanent leader, the agency’s former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, along with other former FDA leaders and influential cancer advocacy groups, prefers to see the agency’s Acting Commissioner Norman “Ned” Sharpless nominated for the job.

In the UK, Brexit shenanigans continued with the country’s exit from the EU looking set to be decided at a general election, quite possibly next month.

The latest parliamentary manoeuvrings followed a vote by MPs to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31 without the express consent of the House of Commons.

Chemical bans

The world’s biggest and most controversial herbicide, glyphosate, will be banned in Germany from 2023, we reported last week. Germany, home of agrochemical giant Bayer, is following in France and Austria’s footsteps to ban the chemical, despite EFSA saying it does not harm human health.

Germany’s Ministry of Agriculture contends that broad-spectrum herbicides, such as glyphosate, eliminate plants that many insect species rely on as food sources and the government will adopt a systematic reduction strategy from 2020 by amending the Plant Protection Ordinance.

The plan also includes "substantial reduction" of the applied quantities of glyphosate until the cut-off date through application bans in home and allotment areas and for areas intended for the general public, as well as a ban on application before harvest and clear limitations of application before sowing and after the harvest.

Denmark also announced a ban last week but of a chemical used in food packaging because of concerns about the impact on human health.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS), chemicals that make paper and cardboard food packaging water and grease resistant, are to be banned in Denmark from 2020.

“I will not accept the risk of these very harmful substances migrating from the packaging to the food. These substances represent a major health problem and we can no longer wait for the EU,” said Danish food minister Mogens Jensen at the time.

Sugar measures

Approximately 14 companies in Switzerland - including retailers - have backed the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) plan to reduce sugar content and have signed an extension of the Declaration of Milan, which will be valid until 2024.

Under the terms of that declaration, the sugar content in yogurts is to be reduced by 10% and in breakfast cereals by 15%. Sugar reduction will also now be extended to other products and salt reduction "in certain foods" will be added to the scheme.

Also last week, a study in the British Medical Journal found that taxing high sugar snacks such as biscuits, cakes, and sweets might be more effective at reducing obesity levels than increasing the price of sugar sweetened drinks.

Researchers used economic modelling to assess the impact of a 20% price increase on high sugar snack foods in the UK. The results suggest that for all income groups combined, increasing the price of biscuits, cakes, chocolates, and sweets by 20% would reduce annual average energy intake by around 8,900 calories, leading to an average weight loss of 1.3 kg over one year.

In contrast, a similar price increase on sugary drinks would result in an average weight loss of just 203 g over one year, the researchers say.


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