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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: New Commission’s ‘Green Deal’ plan leaked, FDA says CBD not ‘GRAS’

Also, Andriukaitis defends science-based policy-making in farewell interview with IEG Policy

The new European Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen will start work today (December 2) on fleshing out policies that will shape the EU food and agriculture sector for the next five years.

That means Janusz Wojciechowski, Phil Hogan and Stella Kyriakides, the respective Commissioners for agriculture, trade and health, will quickly need to acquaint themselves with their new offices and remits after getting the green light from MEPs last week (November 27).

In her speech to the European Parliament, von der Leyen set out the policy direction for her new team, with climate change and the commitment to the bloc being ‘carbon-neutral’ acting as the economic growth strategy for her term in office.

Within her first 100 days, she will put forward proposals for a so-called ‘European Green Deal’ and IEG Policy has seen a document that is expected to form the summary of the plan to be released later this month.

Food and agriculture will mostly be dealt with through the European Green Deal’s ‘farm-to-fork’ strategy, which is aimed to design “a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system”.

The leaked document reveals it will do this by ensuring “high environmental and climate ambition in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy”, focusing primarily on the member states’ strategic plans.

The Commission will present a white paper of the farm-to-fork strategy around spring 2020, in view of rolling-out key initiatives towards the end of the year. The leaked document reveals that these initiatives may include:

  • Addressing the Court's ruling on new breeding techniques;

  • Reforming the food information rules to improve consumers' information;

  • Actions to reduce food loss and food waste;

  • Adoption of a toolbox for alternatives to pesticides.

Elsewhere within the summary, the bloc’s “zero-pollution ambition” is highlighted and singles out the use of potentially harmful agrichemicals. It explains that the Commission will look to adopt a strategy on sustainable chemicals with accompanying rules by 2021.

The Commission will also review all existing legislation affecting agriculture and forestry to ensure it is in line with “renewed climate and biodiversity ambition”.

Andriukaitis says goodbye

In an interview with IEG Policy conducted in the final days of his tenure as EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis discussed a number of key topics including genetically modified organisms, health claims and nutritional labelling.

In office from November 2014 until last month, Andriukaitis also staunchly defended a strict science-based approach to policy making as “the only one which can help us fundamentally to have a food safety system”, adding “we can’t build our food safety system based on public opinion”.

In the interview, he pointed out that public opinion often changes over time, giving the example of whether or not drinking coffee is good for you, but added that he appreciates not everyone has complete trust in the scientists testing the safety of products.

“Food safety assessment should be based on science,” he asserted. “But of course, another problem now is trust in science. That is a problem and some are playing games with this trust in science because now science is more and more specialised, more and more sophisticated and more and more requires very complex measures to understand it.”

Andriukaitis also addressed the controversy surrounding the authorization of botanical claims based on traditional use rather than scientific evidence.

“If you are putting on a packet of simple herbal tea that ‘it can help you avoid diseases’ then, sorry, you can have clinical trials,” he insisted. “Because if you are using the word ‘health’ you need to have evidence-based trials.”

CBD not GRAS

The FDA’s latest stance on cannabidiol (CBD) has raised alarm among players in the U.S. hemp industry, after 15 warning letters were sent to companies claiming they are selling and marketing CBD "in ways that violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act)".

FDA's letters to producers who were using CBD in foods targeted products that were being marketed to infants and children, who FDA said are at “greater risk for adverse reactions due to differences in the ability to absorb, metabolize, distribute or excrete a substance such as CBD.”

Additionally, the agency issued an unprecedented alert to consumers, warning them about a list of negative effects associated with CBD and stressing the many gaps in research have yet to be addressed before FDA can confirm the safety of CBD as a potential drug or food ingredient.

“CBD has the potential to harm you, and harm can happen even before you become aware of it,” FDA said.

The U.S Hemp Roundtable warned that the FDA’s position that CBD should not be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) for use in human food and drugs was overly broad and not based on “sufficient scrutiny or public input”.

It warned that the agency risks putting a chilling effect on both the agency’s efforts to find a legal pathway for CBD as a food ingredient as well as the way that those products are perceived by the general public.

“Combined with the FDA’s continued delay in sharing its long-promised timetable for regulatory action, yesterday’s announcements raise significant concerns for us the Roundtable,” the group said. “We will be discussing next steps with our allies on Capitol Hill and will be sharing with you shortly a plan for political action.”

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