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.

On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed into law Senate Bill 764 (S. 764), creating a national bioengineered food disclosure standard. This law requires companies to provide information on food packaging directing customers to a website or phone line for more information about genetically modified organisms (GMO) that are present in the food product. S. 764 also contains specific language preempting State regulations on "labeling of whether a food (including food served in a restaurant or similar establishment) or seed [in interstate commerce] is genetically engineered ... or was developed or produced using genetic engineering."

In addition to requiring companies to disclose the presence of bioengineered ingredients, S. 764 creates an official definition of bioengineering as "a food -- (A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant [DNA] techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature." The law also creates a "non-GMO" label that can be displayed on products that are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) "certified organic." While harmful effects of GMOs have not been proven, this law allows consumers to educate themselves on the ingredients in their food while creating consistent national language and requirements for bioengineered foods. More information about this bill is available in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group's (BRAG®) article "Senate Passes GMO Bill Creating A National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard With Federal Preemption And Exclusion Information."


 

On June 14, 2016, DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), through UT-Battelle, LLC, published a report determining that bioenergy crops do not impact food security. The report, "Reconciling food security and bioenergy: priorities for action," was put together by experts from ten institutions, including ORNL, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Bank, and Imperial College London. The report determined that previous studies finding bioenergy crops to blame for food shortages had underlying assumptions that lead to incorrect conclusions. The authors additionally recommended using flex-crop schemes utilizing crops that may be used as either fuel or food depending on economic and environmental changes.


 

The World Resources Institute (WRI) issued a working paper, "Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land," as part of its series on "Creating a Sustainable Food Future." The paper concludes that using land for bioenergy purposes results in that land not being available for growing food or animal feed, and, as such, urges policy changes that would phase-out bioenergy and biofuel from crops. According to a New York Times article, the WRI report urges governments to reconsider their reliance on biofuels. The Renewable Fuels Association issued a press release in response to the WRI report, stating that the report makes hypothetical predictions but fails to substantiate its claims on competition with food crops and land.

   

 

Sustainable Oils Inc. issued a press release announcing the issuance of a feedstock-only pathway for the production of Camelina-based fuels under the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). According to the release, this action by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) results in Camelina being the only scalable, non-food based crop that meets both California and federal fuel standards requirements.


 

On June 26, 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a 38-page report on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), "The Renewable Fuel Standard: Issues for 2014 and Beyond." The report examines potential compliance with the RFS through 2017 under three scenarios and evaluates the effects on food and fuel prices under each one. A copy of CBO's summary of the report is available online. A copy of the full report is available online.

The report evaluated the impact on food and fuel prices under the following three RFS scenarios through 2017: compliance with the RFS requirements for advanced, biodiesel, and corn ethanol (not cellulosic); compliance with the RFS volume requirements consistent with EPA's proposed 2014 RFS requirements; and repeal of the RFS requirements. While CBO found that food prices would be similar whether the RFS is continued or repealed, it found varying potential effects on fuel prices. For instance, CBO concluded that continuing RFS statutory requirements through 2017 would lead to increased price of all types of transportation fuels, except E85.

Advocates on both sides of the RFS debate are already using the report. Some opponents have already argued that the report's findings further support reforming or repealing the RFS. Some RFS supporters have dismissed the report's conclusions as contrary to those of other respected economists who have studied the RFS and come to different conclusions. The report comes as RFS stakeholders are eagerly awaiting EPA's release of its final 2014 RFS rule.