By Lynn L. Bergeson
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is offering an opportunity for funding to advance a bioenergy or biochemical production technology toward commercial scale through the construction and operation of a pilot plant. To be eligible for the AGRI Bioenergy/Biochemical Pilot Project Grant, applicants must be a Minnesota-based company, learning institution, local government unit, Native American Tribal community, or individual (including for-profit businesses and colleges/universities). Eligible grant projects will be for the development of innovative bioenergy or biochemical production technology ideas that have advanced beyond the proof of concept and are at the scaling up to pilot-plant stage. Up to $150,000 will be awarded and must be used for: (1) wages, software, or anything else necessary to perform the tasks of the grant project’s work plan; and (2) equipment needed for the project implementation. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. (CDT) on April 26, 2019. For further details, see the Request for Proposals.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
In a recent statement prepared by U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Susan Mayne, Ph.D., Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and by Dennis Keefe, Ph.D, Director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety, FDA highlights its commitment to assisting plant biotechnology developers to foster innovation and ensure that consumers can confidently trust FDA’s high safety standards. Plant biotechnology consists of methods used to introduce new traits or characteristics to a plant (e.g., plants resistant to insect pests, plants with reduced food waste, or plants with reduced levels of harmful elements, amongst others). To assist developers in this field, FDA has a voluntary premarket Plant Biotechnology Consultation Program, which provides developers with the opportunity to engage with FDA to help navigate the appropriate regulatory pathways. The program includes individualized advice from FDA’s biotechnology and food safety experts prior to a plant-based product being permitted to enter the market and allows for biotechnology developers to consult with these FDA experts throughout the entire development, data collection, and evaluation process.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On March 8, 2019, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., released a statement on the continued efforts to advance safe biotechnology innovations, and the deactivation of an import alert on genetically engineered (GE) salmon. In his statement, Dr. Gottlieb emphasized FDA’s mission to evaluate the safety of intentional genomic alterations (IGA) in animals that will ultimately be sold for consumption in the U.S. According to FDA’s recent framework for the efficient development of safe biotechnology products, Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan, Dr. Gottlieb stated that FDA has taken important steps to help advance new products.
Part of these efforts includes FDA’s 2015 decision to approve an application related to GE salmon containing the first approved IGA in an animal meant for food consumption. In 2016, however, the U.S. Congress directed FDA not to allow into commerce any food containing GE salmon until it issues final labeling guidelines for informing consumers of the GE salmon content in the food. Consequently, in compliance with Congressional views, FDA implemented an import alert in that same year that prevented GE salmon from entering the U.S. With the enactment of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) by Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was made responsible for the implementation of a mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are bioengineered. FDA was, therefore, divested of its authority over labeling GE content in human foods. Given the Congressional enactment of NBFDS, Dr. Gottlieb stated that FDA believes this Congressional mandate on GE salmon has been satisfied by USDA’s issuance of final regulations implementing NBFDS. NBFDS requires that human food containing GE salmon be labelled to indicate that it is bioengineered. Therefore, FDA has deactivated the import alert that prevented GE salmon from entering the U.S.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture has announced the AGRI Biofuel Blending Infrastructure Grant to provide funding for biofuel blending infrastructure equipment. In hopes of promoting economic growth and environmentally friendly practices in Minnesota’s biofuels industries, the Grant aims to develop new or enhanced markets that improve blending outcomes, including but not limited to increasing sales and greater access to fuels. The Grant is open to Minnesota-based organizations that are biofuel producers, blending and supplying fuel businesses, and petroleum fuel blenders/distributions. Funds can be used for equipment purchase and its installation or associated costs. The project eligibility requires that the equipment continues to operate until the grant contract expires, the equipment be installed in Minnesota, and that it is compatible with the biofuel-petroleum blends. The amount available ($650,000 in 2019) allows for various grants to be given, and cannot exceed $199,000 of grants per applicant. Applications are due no later than 4:00 p.m. (CST) on Friday, April 12, 2019. For the full request for the proposal, click here.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
Is your company engaged in Class 2 chemistries that are similar to existing Class 2 chemicals but are derived from an innovative bio-source? We are looking for pioneering companies working on new biobased Class 2 chemicals to assist in advancing an important project with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
ISSUE: While EPA sustainability goals would seemingly include adoption of improved biobased technologies, EPA’s policies under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) mean that many novel, sustainable technologies are considered “new chemicals” requiring EPA to conduct new chemical assessments. If these new chemicals are converted to other substances by downstream customers, those substances are likely also new, requiring additional new chemical submissions and assessments. Each new chemical submission and assessment represents a cost and a commercial delay and each is a barrier to adoption of what may be a promising sustainable technology. These reviews can and do result in EPA applying risk management conditions on the production and distribution in commerce of the novel, renewable chemicals -- restrictions that may not apply to older chemistries even though they may be functionally identical in performance, hazard, and risk. Ironically, the new chemical may offer a more benign environmental footprint but nonetheless be subject to stricter controls.
POTENTIAL SOLUTION: To address these issues, the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) has submitted to EPA, in partnership with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a BRAG member, a White Paper proposing a TSCA Inventory representation and equivalency determinations for renewable and sustainable biobased chemicals. EPA’s initial response to the White Paper has been positive and staff has indicated a willingness to conduct equivalency determinations if submitted.
REQUEST: BRAG is now seeking companies interested in participating in a pilot project to prepare and submit such requests. Specifically, we are looking for companies that manufacture or plan to manufacture a Class 2 chemical substance that is functionally equivalent to another Class 2 chemical, but due to existing naming conventions, the two chemicals are not listed as equivalent. If your company fits this description and you wish to support an effort to alleviate commercial burden for yourself and others in the future, please consider working with BRAG on this important project so we present impactful equivalency cases to EPA.
BRAG and Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) are committed to this project. As such, we will evaluate all candidate chemicals submitted, select what we believe is a good test case for the project, and prepare as a courtesy the necessary submission paperwork and equivalency arguments, in conjunction with the nominating company.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On September 27, 2018, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced its approval of amendments to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The LCFS has been in place since 2011, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under the original program, the standard required a ten percent reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels in California by 2020. In 2017 only, the LCFS has successfully led to the replacement of billions of gallons of petroleum and natural gas with renewable and sustainable transportation fuels. Despite its success, however, the approved amendments to the LCFS aim to make the program more flexible and comprehensive. Under the new amendments, the LCFS sets new requirements to the reduction in carbon intensity and added credits for alternative aviation fuels. The LCFS now requires a 20 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030, parallel to California’s overall 2030 target in climate change reduction. Additional changes also include the restructuration of rebate programs for utility vehicles into one single pool and a new protocol for carbon capture and storage. For further details on the new LCFS, click here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 30, 2018, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced their sustainable chemistry bill, the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2018 (S. 3296). This bill encourages the development of new and innovative chemicals, products and processes with an improved “environmental footprint” through efficient use of resources, reducing or eliminating exposure to hazardous substances, or otherwise minimizing harm to human health and the environment. The legislation is intended to support new innovations in chemistry that benefit the economy, the environment, and human health. The bill supports coordinated efforts in sustainable chemistry across federal agencies through research and development, technology transfer, commercialization, education, and training programs -- including partnerships with the private sector. The bill does not include any regulatory components, nor does it authorize new spending. Its goal, rather, is to coordinate better federal activities in sustainable chemistry and encourage industry, academia, nonprofits, and the general public to innovate, develop, and bring to market new sustainable chemicals, materials, products, and processes.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On June 21, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it was withdrawing the draft guidance, “Statistical Approaches to Evaluate Analytical Similarity,” issued in September 2017. The announcement states that the draft guidance, if issued in final as written, “was intended to provide advice for sponsors developing biosimilar products regarding the evaluation of analytical similarity between a proposed biosimilar product and the reference product.” Further, comments submitted to the docket “addressed a range of issues that could impact the cost and efficiency of biosimilar development, including the number of reference product lots the draft guidance would recommend biosimilar developers sample in their evaluation of high similarity and the statistical methods for this evaluation.” FDA states that after considering the public comments that were received on the draft guidance, it determined it would withdraw the draft guidance as it gives further consideration to the scientific and regulatory issues involved, and that it intends to “issue future draft guidance that will reflect state-of-the-art techniques in the evaluation of analytical data to support a demonstration that a proposed biosimilar product is highly similar to a reference product.” FDA will communicate publicly when new draft guidance is issued.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On May 1, 2018, a new biodiesel requirement went into effect in Minnesota, requiring all diesel fuel sold in the state to contain five percent biodiesel from October to March and 20 percent biodiesel from April to September. This is the last stage of the Biodiesel Content Mandate that has been steadily increasing the minimum content requirement of biodiesel in diesel sold in Minnesota since September 29, 2005, when a two percent blend requirement was introduced. Since then the requirement has increased to five percent on May 1, 2009, and stayed at five percent for the winter months while the summer requirement increased to ten percent on July 1, 2014, and reached the final 20 percent requirement for the summer months this May. Minnesota originally planned to transition to a ten percent biodiesel blend on May 1, 2012, but concerns about inadequate blending infrastructure delayed implementation. Minnesota’s government is confident that the state is prepared to switch to a 20 percent biodiesel blend, with sufficient fuel and feedstock supply and adequate blending infrastructure. Tom Slunecka, CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Growers, states consumers benefit the most from the B20 mandate, “They’re getting better, cleaner air because biodiesel is in our fuel tanks. They’re getting the benefit of an industry that was born here in Minnesota. It’s produced here, it’s consumed here. So all the taxes stay right here.”
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On December 28, 2017, New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides announced that the New York City Council unanimously passed a bill on the use of alternative fuels and alternative fuel technologies in the city ferry fleet (INT. 54). The legislation would require a two-year study on the feasibility of using alternative fuel, including biodiesel, and fuel technologies, including hybrid electric or fuel-cell electric, in city ferries. The study would include consideration of availability, storage, ferry compatibility, possible barriers, regulatory requirements, and other issues related to renewable fuels. Based on the findings, the city would determine whether it is feasible and practical to implement the use of renewable fuels. The bill, which Council Member Constantinides introduced to the Council in 2014, is awaiting Mayor Bill de Blasio's signature.