The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On January 31, 2018, the European Commission (EC) launched a new investigation into subsidized imports of biodiesel from Argentina.  The investigation was initiated based on a complaint filed by the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) on behalf of producers representing over 25 percent of the European Union (EU) biodiesel production.  The EC determined that the complaint includes sufficient evidence that the Argentinean biodiesel producers have benefitted from a number of subsidies granted by the Government of Argentina.  The investigation provides another means for imposing tariffs on biodiesel imported from Argentina following successful challenges to the anti-dumping (AD) duties set in 2013.  In September 2017, the EU reduced the AD duties for Argentinean biodiesel to between 4.5 and 8.1 percent, from initial rates of 22-25.7 percent.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On January 8, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue presented to President Donald Trump the findings of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.  The Task Force was established in 2017 following an Executive Order by President Trump to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that impacts agriculture and rural communities.  According to the report, over 100 actions organized around five key topic areas, specifically e-connectivity, quality of life, rural workforce, innovation and technology, and economic development, were identified.
 
Of the recommendations related to economic development, the Task Force identified regaining American energy dominance as a key objective.  The report states that “[‌b]oosting production of all sources of energy from natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear, and renewables is essential to America’s national security interest and rural America’s economy.  The federal government must ensure a regulatory environment which can unleash this potential while keeping Americans safe and healthy.”

Regarding innovation and technology, the report recognizes biotechnology as “another area of U.S. leadership, being a sector that has driven innovation in fuels, chemicals, manufacturing, and agriculture.”  The Task Force recommended that:

  • The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and other relevant agencies develop a communications strategy to increase acceptance of biotech products; and
  • The federal government continue efforts to modernize the federal regulatory system for biotechnology products, particularly by:
    • Coordinating the federal regulation of biotechnology products;
    • Coordinating interagency action through the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and
    • Expediting the commercialization of biotechnology products.
​​The full report is available on the USDA website.

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

The Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2018 (ABLC) will be held February 28 - March 2, 2018, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.  ABLC is the gathering point for top leaders in the Advanced Bioeconomy -- bringing together the entire spectrum of advanced fuels, chemicals, and materials chief executive officers (CEO) and senior executives, business developers, research and development (R&D) leaders, strategic partners, financiers, equity analysts, policymakers, and industry suppliers.  Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist for Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), and Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D., Manager of BRAG, are featured speakers.  Register online.
 
ABLC is a connected series of five conferences on pressing issues in the bioeconomy, including: 

  • Advanced Fuels Summit;
  • Renewable Chemicals, Biomaterials & Intermediates Summit;
  • Aviation Biofuels Summit;
  • ABLC Crop & Feedstocks Summit; and
  • ABLC Economic Development & Deployment Showcase.

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) issued a statement soliciting applications for its Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program.  The program aims to support the generation of new information that will assist federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing genetically engineered (GE) organisms, including microorganisms, into the environment.  Exploratory research that relates specifically to federal regulatory needs is preferred. USDA anticipates approximately $3.5 million in funding will be available for 2018 grants.  Applicants must submit a letter of intent by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on December 21, 2017.  Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 22, 2018.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Industrial Biotechnology recently published a special issue to highlight the advances and challenges in algae-based products and applications.  The article, written by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C. (BCCM) affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) Managing Partner, Lynn L. Bergeson; B&C Senior Chemist, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.; and BCCM Manager, Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D., examines the complex regulatory domain and discusses the significance and implications of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for industrialized microorganisms, such as algae.  The article titled “TSCA Affects on Algae, Other Novel Biosources, and Bioprocesses” provides an overview of the fundamentals of TSCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of new substances, the impact that chemical identity has on EPA’s regulation of new substances, and available reporting exemptions.  In the article, the authors highlight the need for chemical product innovators “to understand how TSCA, significantly amended in 2016, applies to biomass starting material, including industrial microorganisms (such as algae); intermediates; and commercial products, and build TSCA compliance into business timelines and budgets.”  While the products of industrial microbes have the potential to reduce toxicity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and dependence on non-renewable resources, companies must comply with TSCA and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to ensure that such products successfully enter the market.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 24, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it was the only energy company to reach the Leadership-class ranking in three Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) programs.  Neste received an A- ranking in the CDP Climate, CDP Forests, and CDP Water programs.  CDP is a not-for-profit organization that manages a global disclosure system allowing companies, cities, states, and regions to measure and manage their environmental impact.  The CDP Climate program focuses on corporate measures to combat climate risks and take advantage of low-carbon products and services.  According to Pekka Tuovinen, Neste's Senior Advisor for sustainability, “[t]he more efficiently we operate, and the more we can reduce the climate emissions of our own supply chains, the greater will be the climate benefits of the products and solutions we offer.” 
 
Neste is the only energy sector company to transparently disclose its forest footprint as part of the CDP program.  The Leadership-class ranking demonstrates Neste’s commitment to preventing deforestation in its supply chain and requiring similar action from its raw material suppliers.  Neste continues to work on improving the traceability of various kinds of processing residues used as raw materials beyond what is mandated by regulatory requirements.
 
For the first time, Neste participated in the CDP Water program, which requires companies to disclose the measures they implement for responsible water use and water risk management.  According to Mr. Tuovinen, Neste has been carrying out water footprint calculations for its refineries and products since the 1990s.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 17, 2017, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Congressman Neal Dunn, M.D. (R-FL), and 77 additional House members sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to urge the agencies to work together to promote innovative new technologies aimed at increasing crop yields and reducing the cost of production.  According to Congressman Panetta, the letter was prepared in response to duplicative or inconsistent regulatory proposals regarding biotechnology.  In the letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members highlighted several recent biotechnology regulatory efforts that warrant the Administration’s attention, as well as the importance of a consistent, science-based, risk-proportionate regulatory system.  Members concluded by urging the agencies to cooperate in creating consistent regulatory proposals that foster innovation; to increase engagement with trading partners to promote a harmonized, science-based international regulatory system for agricultural products; and to consider ways to engage with the public to discuss the continued advancement of biotechnology in agriculture.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 12, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two public meetings regarding its Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative.  The meetings will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 7, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (EST) and in San Francisco, California, on November 14, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (PST).  FDA states the purpose of the public meetings is “to provide the public with an opportunity to share information, experiences, and suggestions to help inform the development of this education and outreach initiative.”  This initiative, which Congress appropriated $3 million to fund, calls upon FDA to work with USDA to provide education and outreach to the public on agricultural biotechnology and food and animal feed ingredients derived from biotechnology.  More information on the initiative and information on how to register for the meetings is available on FDA’s website.  Comments on questions listed in the Federal Register notice, scheduled to be published tomorrow, are also being requested and can be filed in Docket FDA-2017-N-5991 on www.regulations.gov.  Comments are due by November 17, 2017.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On August 25, 2017, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) announced that the European Commission confirmed the extension of the Red Tractor voluntary scheme for biofuels for an initial three months.  Red Tractor is a certification body used to prove that crops meet European Union (EU) sustainability requirements.  To receive public support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU must comply with the EU's sustainability criteria.  One way for a company to demonstrate compliance is to participate in voluntary schemes recognized by the European Commission.
 
As with the other voluntary schemes, Red Tractor was approved for a period of five years, which expired on August 1, 2017.  On August 24, 2017, NFU called on the Commission to urgently address concerns that Red Tractor-approved crops will no longer be able to enter the European biofuels market.  The Commission responded by confirming that the Red Tractor scheme continues to be considered compliant with the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) sustainability criteria until November 5, 2017, pending another five-year approval.


 
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