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Food & Ag Policy: US and France at loggerheads, hemp concerns raised, rewilding touted

Hemp remains high up on the political and scientific agendas of the EU and the US, whilst agrochemical restrictions continue unabated and France and the US enter tricky negotiations affecting agri-food tariffs.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said last week and French and US authorities would try to work out a compromise on a contested digital tax to avert more tariffs on agri-food products.

The Trump administration said it was considering imposing additional duties of up to 100% on French products worth US$2.4 billion (€2.17 billion), including Champagne and specialty cheeses such as Gruyère, Parmesan and Roquefort.

The threat came after its investigation found that a French tax on digital services would particularly harm large American technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Meanwhile, a French ban on the food additive titanium dioxide (E171), already announced last year by Bruno Le Maire, had taken effect this month for an initial year, meaning products containing the whitening and opacity agent can no longer be placed on the market in France.

Regulatory authority ANSES had flagged up uncertainties thrown up by four studies suggesting a link between the additive and cancer, including one from France’s influential national agronomic research institute (INRA).  ANSES also pointed to the lack of data characterising hazards and risks especially in E171’s nano form.

Agrochemical restrictions

France has also announced it is aiming to ban non-agricultural use pesticides by this summer after figures came out showing that pesticides went up 25% in 2018.

The sales figures are frustrating for the government which introduced a policy in 2008 to reduce pesticide use by 50% between 2008-18 through bans and financial support.

The European Commission told Austria last week that its' planned ban on the herbicide glyphosate could be flouting EU agrochemical laws. Austria had planned to ban the herbicide from January 1st but failed to give the Commission the necessary notification.

EU health and food safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in answer to a written question that, while Regulation 1107/2009 contains provisions allowing EU member states to prevent or limit use of specific active ingredients, these have strict conditions and must be based on “genuine concerns”.

Hemp concerns

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warned last week that the intake of delta‐nine tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9‐THC) in people consuming large amounts of hemp products could exceed the acute reference dose (ARfD) leading to effects on the central nervous system and an increased heart rate.

The warning comes in January 7 scientific report on “Acute human exposure assessment to tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9‐THC)” from the head of EFSA’s exposure assessment team Davide Arcella.

In the US state of Minnesota, agriculture officials have warned the country’s USDA that key parts of its national hemp production rule are too restrictive and will put the state’s “promising hemp industry in jeopardy.”

The comments from the Minnesota State Department of Agriculture (MDA) hone in on concerns with the rule’s sampling and testing regime, echoing the worry of other stakeholders that the USDA rule will prove too difficult to implement and makes it nearly impossible for many farmers to meet the 2018 Farm Bill’s 0.3% THC limit for industrial hemp. 

Separately, a resolution of a class action targeting a Florida-based CBD company for allegedly misleading consumers about the potency of its products must wait until FDA issues rules governing use of the non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient, a federal judge ruled last week.

UK agriculture

A former chief scientific advisor in the UK has said that half of the UK’s farmland should be returned to nature or “rewilded” and farmers paid instead for planting trees and storing carbon to tackle the environmental crisis.

Professor Sir Ian Boyd, previously of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(Defra), told The Guardian newspaper that the move would help restore nature and mitigate climate change. But he said it could mean cattle and sheep numbers would fall by 90%.

Meanwhile, at the annual Oxford Farming Conference, Defra minister Theresa Villiers confirmed that a revised blueprint for its future post-Brexit agriculture policy would be presented by the end of this month.

Villiers made clear that the UK would press ahead with the previous government’s plans to phase out CAP-style direct aids in England by 2027, and replace them with Environmental Land Management (ELM) contracts.


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Coca-Cola blocks supplies of drinks in dispute with French supermarkets

US again hits WTO Appellate Body over appeal timelines

Farmers don’t have to scrap beef to support Scotland’s carbon neutral goal - WWF report

Minnesota frustrated with USDA hemp production rule

‘Impossible Pork’ violates labeling law: NPPC

Poland hit by avian flu outbreak

EU rice tariffs squeeze Cambodian farmers

Week ahead and updates

US Washington week: China trade, USMCA & impeachment top agenda 

EU agriculture policy diary (January 13-17): MEPs vote on Green Deal draft

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