By Lynn L. Bergeson
On August 1, 2018, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for its delay in the establishment of a national mandatory bioengineered (BE) food disclosure standard. In its lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that AMS’ failure to implement a final rule is “inimical to the democratic process” and damaging to the public and stakeholders. On May 4, 2018, USDA announced a request for comments on the proposed new rule under the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 on the establishment of a national mandatory BE food disclosure standard. The proposed rule would require food manufacturers and labelers to unveil information to consumers about BE foods. The notice also included a request for comments on AMS’ intent to request approval by the Office of Management and Budget for information collection on the proposed BE disclosure standard. Comments on this proposed rule were due on July 3, 2018, with a final ruling to be made on or before July 29, 2018, according to the 2016 Public Law 114-216. AMS received over 14,000 comments out of which USDA staff claim to still be sorting through, meaning a final ruling has not yet been made and many entities are not happy about this.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 25, 2018, the European Union (EU) Supreme Court of Justice ruled that plants with genes that have been altered, even without the insertion of foreign DNA, are classified as genetically modified organisms (GMO) and therefore must undergo the same safety checks for their impacts on the environment and human health as organisms with foreign DNA. According to Bio-Based World News, the ruling “is seen as a victory for environmentalists but a blow for the bio-economy” due to the much stricter rules that apply to GMOs. Bio-based chemicals often require genome editing to provide renewable substitutes for petrochemical building blocks. EuropaBio’s Secretary General, John Brennan, commented on this new ruling stating that it lacks regulatory clarity that is needed by EU researchers, academics, and innovators in the industry to deliver solutions. EuropaBio plans to engage EU Member States and citizens in providing a fact-based dialogue on what genome editing is, and what it will or will not be used for. The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology’s Director, Detlef Weigel, also criticized the ruling, stating that it was “a sad day for European science.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signaled on June 29, 2018, its intent to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with potential changes to the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered [(GE)] organisms.” The EIS will have a significant impact on how APHIS chooses to amend its regulation of GE organisms. APHIS requested comment on issues to be considered in preparing the EIS, as well as how to define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts. Comments are due July 30, 2018.
Our full memorandum provides some background, context, and a commentary regarding APHIS’ announcement.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 2, 2018, Midwest AgEnergy announced that the North Dakota Industrial Commission, a division of North Dakota’s State Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, had awarded it a $83,810 grant to research using North Dakota barley to produce ethanol with a protein concentrate byproduct for use in aquaculture. This would be the first ethanol produced North Dakota from a feedstock other than corn, and would include an expansion of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy (DSA) ethanol plant. "We're looking to move ahead with a more formal study on a barley protein concentrate project," stated Jeff Zueger, CEO of Midwest AgEnergy, the parent company of DSA. "If built, it would be a co-located process at DSA that would dehull and mill barley to produce high protein feed and a feedstock for the ethanol process."
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 20, 2018, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) announced the opening of the 2018 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. The announcement states that EPA “supports the continuation of the awards program for 2018 under the sponsorship of the ACS GCI,” and “[t]o ensure continuity, the awards categories and guidelines are remaining the same, only the timing of the awards cycle is changing, and the ACS GCI will be managing the awards program and making final decisions about award winners.” The award guidelines and nomination package will be posted on the ACS GCI website by April 30, 2018; Submissions will be accepted from April 30, 2018, through July 2, 2018; award winners will be notified no later than August 31, 2018; and the awards ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C. in October 2018.
More information is available in our memorandum “ACS GCI Announces Opening of 2018 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards; EPA Announces Opening of 2018 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards.”
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On February 12, 2018, Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) announced a strategic partnership with Versalis, a producer of polymers and elastomers, to develop a comprehensive technology package to commercialize guayule in the agricultural, sustainable-rubber, and renewable-chemical sectors. Through the agreement, Bridgestone and Versalis will develop proprietary, highly productive varieties of guayule using the latest genetic technologies to position guayule as an attractive and profitable crop for independent growers. The process technologies will be optimized at the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center (BPRC) in Mesa, Arizona. Versalis will lead the product development activities to monetize the guayule rubber production. The technology developed through the partnership is intended to be made available to industrial partners willing to cooperate in maximizing the value of these innovative products. According to Nizar Trigui, Chief Technology Officer at Bridgestone, the collaboration supports Bridgestone’s goal of developing new, domestic, and sustainable sources for natural rubber and of manufacturing products from raw materials that are fully renewable and sustainable by 2050.
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.