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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: Call for GMO reform, EU climate law presented, Covid-19 disrupts

Also, livestock sector impact questioned and US looks to educate on GMOs

Calls were made last week for radical reform of EU legislation on genetically modified organisms by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC).

The EASAC said there would be a “societal cost” in terms of food and nutrition security if the EU does not use new genome editing techniques in plants or is slow in adopting them. The remarks came as the European Commission considers whether to bring new breeding techniques (NBTs) within the scope of the EU’s strict GMO laws amid concerns that this will stifle innovation.

In the US, the FDA, USDA and EPA on Wednesday unveiled a new campaign intended to help consumers better understand the science behind GMO foods.

Called “Feed Your Mind,” the FDA-led education initiative aims to answer “the most common questions” that consumers have about GMOs, including what GMOs are, how and why they are made, and how they are regulated.

Climate law

In the EU on Wednesday, the European Commission presented a new climate law which aims to turn the Green Deal’s ambition of 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions into a reality.

The Commission’s European Climate Law wants member states to have a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, keeping the bloc in line with 1.5°C global warming compared to pre-industrial times – a scenario that could avert some of the worst impacts of climate change.

EU environment ministers also adopted a position that allows member state governments to quickly commit themselves to the EU climate-neutral strategy.

The European Commission is hoping its 2050 climate-neutral strategy will set the tone for more ambitious global climate commitments this November when the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, will take place in Glasgow, Scotland.

Meanwhile, the livestock sector, which has been much maligned in climate debates, received some welcome news. Professor Myles Allen, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nation’s body that provides the scientific basis on global warming - told BBC radio that the current way livestock’s methane emissions are being calculated could be leading to farmers being unfairly treated.

“If you have a farm whose methane emissions are declining slowly, say 10% over 30 years, then actually those methane emissions are not having an impact on global temperature [rise],” he told BBC Radio. “The problem that farmers face is the accounting rules we use…doesn’t reflect that.”


In the US, Congress is looking to tackle the possibility that coronavirus will disrupt supply chains by creating a Congressional Supply Chain Caucus. Industry hopes it will explore innovative solutions to a host of global threats to make supply chains more efficient.

Reps. Colin Allred (D-Texas), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.) will serve as co-chairs of the new caucus and are recruiting members to “strengthen and add resiliency to protect the delivery system, which can be severely harmed by geopolitical events such as the recent coronavirus outbreak that has had significant impacts on global supply chains,” according to a letter to colleagues.

In Italy, sales of processed food rose dramatically as people sought to stockpile supplies in response to the virus outbreak there – the worst in Europe.

Supermarket sales in the north-west of Italy rose by 11.2% two weeks ago due to a shopping rush linked to the spreading of Covid-19.

Also in Italy, farmers reported that their crops were at risk because seasonal workers from Central and Eastern Europe are not coming back to their fields.

In a statement published on its website, farming union Coldiretti said foreign seasonal workers are staying away from Lombardy and Veneto, where a series of COVID-19 outbreaks have been detected since February 21.

In case you missed it…

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Drinks carton makers say EU climate law could do more to push renewable materials

Passage of broadband mapping bill wins praise from lawmakers, Farm Bureau

AMR means foodborne infections getting harder to treat, warn EFSA and ECDC

EPA proposes expanding the reach of controversial science transparency rule

What does the new European Climate Law mean for agribusiness and farmers?

Rice growers in Spain and Italy warn of impact of EU trade deal with Vietnam

Yoho ag labor bill would put USDA in charge of H-2A program

Avoid food safety trade-offs in meeting climate goals, FoodDrinkEurope warns

Australia set to reject ‘Certified Humane’ meat and dairy label


Week Ahead & Updates

EU agriculture policy diary (March 9-13): EP plenary moved to Brussels over corona concerns

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