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 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.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On July 26, 2017, the European Commission announced the launch of the Bioeconomy Knowledge Centre, which was created by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) to better support policy makers with science-based evidence in the bioeconomy field.  Rather than generate information, the objective is to build on JRC’s expertise in knowledge management.  The online platform will collect, structure, and provide access to knowledge from a wide range of scientific sources on the bioeconomy, the sustainable production of renewable biological resources, and their conversion into valuable products.  The platform will also support the European Commission in the review of the 2012 Bioeconomy Strategy, taking into account new political and policy developments, such as the Paris agreement, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and the Circular Economy Package.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems.  The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation. 
 
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
  • Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
  • University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.​​
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:
  • Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
  • Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
  • Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
  • University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.  
More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On July 20, 2017, USDA released its technology transfer report for fiscal year 2016.  The report outlines the public release of information, tools, and solutions and the adoption and enhancement of research outcomes by collaborative partners and formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) that occurred in 2016.
 
The report highlights several research initiatives by ARS scientists focused on supporting the bioeconomy, including:

  • Development of a new yeast strain with a unique cellulolytic enzyme that efficiently breaks down biofeedstock, shows resistance to inhibitory compounds, and eliminates the need to add other enzymes to the production process;
  • Engineering a yeast strain from a Brazilian ethanol plant to convert plant xylose to ethanol and then identifying a strain with excellent performance;
  • dentification of a strain of yeast capable of converting inulin, a major polysaccharide derived from coffee processing waste, into cellulosic ethanol;
  • Development of genetic methods to control the conversion of agricultural sugars to compounds called liamocins using yeast; and
  • Studying the use of lytic enzymes as an alternative to antibiotics for preventing and controlling bacterial contamination of fuel ethanol fermentations during biorefining.
The full report, titled “Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report on Technology Transfer” is available on USDA’s website.

 

Scientists, executives, and investors gathered in Montreal, Canada on Tuesday evening for a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion on current issues facing bioeconomy leaders and innovators.  The reception, hosted by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C., included a brief question and answer (Q&A) session with Christine Lhulier, Corporate Counsel for DuPont Industrial Biosciences, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist with B&C, and Jeremiah B. Frueauf, Director in the Biotechnology/Chemical Group at Stern Kessler.  The panel discussed the variety of the incentives and challenges related to growing the bioeconomy, and fielded questions from many of the attendees. 
 
When asked what industries might be affected by the bioeconomy in 2040, Ms. Lhulier stated that she could not name an industry that would not be impacted by renewable resources in the future.  In response to the question “what should be the key driver in growing the bioeconomy?,” the panelists highlighted the need for clear regulatory policies that ensure parity for the commercialization of biobased and petroleum-based products, while recognizing the role that industry and academic institutions play in driving innovation.  It was also noted that global alignment on biobased policies and procedures, and the development of feedstock-agnostic technologies, would help to accelerate the growth of the bioeconomy. 
 
After a guest commented on the impact the negative public perception of biotechnology has on innovation, Dr. Engler pointed out the public’s poor understanding of biotechnology, its safety, and the extent to which it is utilized in the marketplace already.  Another attendee suggested that the biobased industry consider playing a role in informing the public of the benefits of biobased processes.  At the conclusion of the Q&A portion of the evening, many guests stayed to continue the conversation with the panelists and attendees.


 
 1 2 3 >  Last ›