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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: EU agriculture “race to the bottom”, France bans insecticides, US defines “bioengineering”

Also, a petition has been launched to stop illegal shark finning and the US Environmental Protection Agency has boosted Bayer’s bid to appeal a glyphosate ruling.

The European Commission’s proposals on the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were strongly criticised last week for being too weak on tackling climate and sustainability issues.

The German ministry of agriculture’s scientific advisory board said CAP reform risks a “race to the bottom” rather than a much-needed transition to a sustainable farming sector.

Consequently, the board wants the German government to push for stronger environmental policies in EU negotiations within the next CAP and has recommended what their politicians should focus on.

Last week, we also reported on how researchers at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands are looking at how to make complexities of farming sustainably easier.

The university’s ‘Lighthouse Farm Network’ is working with eleven sustainable farms to develop a tool to support food and agriculture stakeholders to understand complex sustainability issues like greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity.

On Thursday (January 2nd), a pan-European petition designed to stop illegal shark finning on board EU vessels or transit via the bloc’s ports was officially launched.

The organisers now have a year to collect at least a million signatures EU-wide, meeting minimum thresholds in seven or more member states. The ECI calls for the EU to extend an existing finning ban under a 2013 regulation to trade in fins outside the bloc.

Agrochemical legal moves

In France, the government announced it has banned two insecticides - Bayer's flupyradifurone and Corteva Agriscience's sulfoxaflor - saying that the two active ingredients have modes of action identical to neonicotinoids.

France says the ban is part of its commitment to reducing the impact of the use of crop protection products on pollinators and ecosystems.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has given a boost to Bayer’s bid to reverse a federal jury’s ruling on the herbicide glyphosate.

The ruling has found legacy company Monsanto, which Bayer bought up, liable for failing to warn a California resident about the potential cancer risks from its glyphosate-based product Roundup.

However, an amicus brief filed last month by the EPA urges the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to grant Bayer’s appeal, echoing the company’s argument that the claims are pre-empted by federal law.

Bioengineering

A legal challenge to of the US FDA’s authority to regulate genetically engineered animals as new animal drugs has been rejected by a federal judge, tossing out part of a lawsuit that aims to invalidate the agency’s approval of AquaBounty’s GE salmon.

The ruling was a blow for environmentalists and fishing groups who allege that the FDA has failed to adequately assess the environmental and potential health impacts from GE salmon and claim the agency should not have reviewed and approved the biotech fish under the new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has made changes to a 2016 labelling guidance that clarifies the use of "bioengineered" for companies showing no GE ingredients were used in meat, poultry, and egg products.

One of the changes in the guidance was announced last Monday (December 30th) and came in response to advocacy groups who warned against limiting the definition in the document to “bioengineered” spelled out under USDA’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, rather than using FDA’s more widely accepted definition of “modern technology.”

Hemp plans approved

Plans by three states and four Indian tribes to produce hemp have been approved by USDA. Under the 2018 Farm Bill USDA was directed to develop a regulatory oversight program for hemp including for approval of hemp production plans submitted by states and Indian tribes.

USDA issued an interim final rule on October 31, 2019 creating the US Domestic Hemp Production Program that set out the process for USDA to approve state and tribal plans, along with rules for hemp producers in states that do not submit plans to USDA.

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