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Food and Ag Policy Briefing: EU tax on meat touted, organic farming grows, battle continues over GM salmon

Also, largest producer of the insecticide chlorpyrifos has announced it is ending production of the agrochemical this year, Walloon protests against Mercosur and Greece reports first case of African Swine Fever.

A report out last week that created much debate floated the idea of taxing meat products to fund more environmentally-friendly farming in the EU.

The so-called “sustainability charge” could help generate €32 billion in revenue for EU member states,  True Animal Protein Prices (TAPP) Coalition stated in its’ report, shifting finance to support more eco-friendly food production.

Jeroom Remmers, TAPP’s director, said at a February 5th launch of the report at the European Parliament, that global meat and dairy consumption will use the world’s entire greenhouse gas emissions budget by 2050 if it continues on its current path.

More environmentally friendly farming appears to be on the up anyway, according to the EU’s own statistics that find that organic farming has grown sharply in the EU over the past few years.

Total organic farmland in the EU reached 13.4 million hectares in 2018, or 7.5% of the total utilised agricultural area (UAA), according to updated figures published by Eurostat. This is 34% higher than in 2012, when it still stood at 10 million hectares.

Concern that cheaper agrifood products will flood the EU from South America led the Walloon parliament to unanimously adopt a motion last week to oppose the trade agreement concluded between the EU and the Mercosur countries. The motion, written by the majority socialist (PS), liberal (MR) and green (Ecolo) parties, was approved by the full regional parliament on February 5.

A key objection to the draft trade pact, the text states that it would allow greater access to the EU market for South American farming products in return for lower tariffs on EU exports of cars and machinery.

In Greece, authorities reported the first outbreak of African Swine Fever on a small pig farm in the Serres region, towards the country’s northeastern border with Bulgaria.

The Greek Agriculture Ministry said samples of dead pig tested positive for the virus after being sent to a laboratory run by the country’s directorate general for veterinary medicine. The news came just days after EU experts were warned that Greece could be next in line for an outbreak at a meeting of the bloc’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.

GM salmon

Those opposed to GM salmon in the US have taken another step in a protracted battle over the technology. Environmentalists and fishing groups keen to upend FDA’s approval of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon asked a federal court for summary judgment, arguing the agency failed to comply with federal environmental and administrative laws.

The fate of the motion could prove decisive for the case. In December, US District Judge Vince Chhabria handed the plaintiffs a blow by tossing out four claims that challenged the agency’s authority to regulate GE animals as new animal drugs.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2016 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California by a coalition led by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, calls for the GE salmon decision to be reversed and for FDA’s regulatory regime to be declared illegal.

Chlorpyrifos on the way out

Also in the US last week, Corteva, the largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, an insecticide linked to brain damage in children, announced that it will end production of the agrochemical this year.

The decision is being hailed as a major win for environmental groups who have pressed the Environmental Protection Agency for more than a decade to pull chlorpyrifos from the market because of concerns about the public health impacts. Current sales are less than 20% of its peak more than 20 years ago.

At the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), news came through of plans to publish a new notice that will focus on expanding “healthy” claims on meat and poultry labels in light of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) policy change in 2016.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent the new notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review on Jan. 31.

“If approved, FSIS intends to announce that it has made changes to its ‘Healthy’ labeling policy to make it more consistent with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) current labeling policy,” said a spokeswoman with FSIS. “These changes would alleviate consumer confusion and promote uniformity in the marketplace.”


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Week Ahead & Updates

EU agriculture policy diary (February 10-14)



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