News items related to ag tech, biotech, trade – and perhaps some other interesting items out there related to agriculture – will be posted on this page throughout the week (as the week progresses newest items will be in green at bottom of sections).  Be sure to check in regularly.

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Few things to point out in the news so far this week in the European Union regulatory world as (1) the Dow and DuPont merger moves forward there, and (2) the member states voted (non-binding) against introduction of two new and reapproval of the only existing biotech crop on the continent, putting the final say before the European Commission which could still decide on authorization. Then on Wednesday 29 March  (3), the United Kingdom began the formal process – triggering Article 50 – for exiting the European Union. And more news late Wednesday as the Environmental Protecton Agency reversed the steps to ban the widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos by the previous Administration (story below).  Simply put, lot of news this week.

While saying some great things about trade issues this week (see first story below), perhaps you also recently noticed quite a ruckus on social media when Cargill announced further partnership with the Non-GMO Project.  Usually a low-key group, many farmers and agvocates took to Twitter and blogs to express their thoughts, and there were some very strong opinions and statements shared on social media.  Politico even featured it  at top their Morning Agriculture briefing Mar 27.

Understandably, there are business and market decisions that need to be made by all companies in order to supply a variety of customers.  The company states that they’re using the “most-requested third party certification” provider and “neither endorse nor agree with their positions on the safety and sustainablity of GMO Crops” (see Statement regarding Non-GMO Verification).

So why the uproar?  Perhaps, this is the problem as many of the farmers see it – most have little or no problem with coexistence of conventional agriculture and those choosing other options including non-GMO, but that view is not shared by the Non-GMO Project.

The Non-GMO Project doesn’t simply provide verification of non-GMO products, the organization is stridently in the anti-GMO movement and actively advocates against agricultural biotechnology (e.g. referring to testing for “high-risk ingredients for GMO contamination” on their website, and a constant villification stream via Twitter) while being supported by entities that have financial interest in that position (see profile here via Genetic Literacy Project).

That’s why they are not happy and feel slighted, and as a quote in a Mar 27 Bloomberg article states, “Some of the farmers’ concerns are well-founded, in that the Non-GMO Project is not an unbiased, non-aligned, independent lab,” said Peter Golbitz, founder of Estero, Florida-based Agromeris, a consulting firm for specialty agriculture products and ingredients. “Their true intent is to discredit GMO technology and to drive fear into consumers and the supply chain.”

There are a few links to blogs and stories on it below, additionally here is some of the reactions on Twitter here and here, as well as other interesting news items for the week.

TRADE, TRADE RELATED, INFRASTRUCTURE:

Standing Up for Trade – Financial Times Global Commodities Summit – Prepared remarks by Cargill’s Dave MacLennan (Mar 28)

“We also need to address a gap in the way we structure trade agreements. Today, we have entered a new era in which trade agreements are no longer just a set of trading rules. Agreements now serve as an easy scapegoat for a wide range of social challenges.” Link

Cargill CEO stands up for free trade – GlobalMeatNews – By Oscar Rousseau (Mar 29)

“In a time of creeping protectionism threatening to destabilise the balance of free trade, David MacLennan, CEO of agri-business giant Cargill, has made an impassioned defence of global commerce.”Link

China Vice Premier Sees `Unstoppable Momentum’ of Globalization – Bloomberg (Mar 24) 

“Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance.” – Link

Brexit question draws U.S., Russian, Chinese interest at WTO – Reuters – By Tom Miles (Mar 27)

“Trade diplomats say the agricultural tariff question is the stickiest problem facing Britain as it prepares to establish its own distinct terms of trade at the WTO.” – Link

China to Reopen Its Consumer Market to Brazilian Meat Exports – Wall Street Journal – By Paul Kiernan (Mar 25)

“Brazil’s Federal Police alleged on March 17 that some meatpacking plants had committed violations including bribing health inspectors” – Link

Russia proposes changes to dairy vs. non-dairy labeling to WTO – Dairy Reporter – By Mary Ellen Shoup Mar 28)

The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the regulatory body of Russia, has notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of amendments seeking to distinguish between dairy products with or without milk fat substitutes.” – Link

Trump plans two new trade-related executive orders: senior official – CNBC – By Ylan Mui (Mar 28)

“One of the orders calls for a sweeping review of America’s existing trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement and one with Central American countries, the person said. The other would focus on the president’s pledge to encourage the production of goods in the United States.” – Link

Britain Sets Historic Brexit Process in Motion – Wall Street Journal  By Jenny Gross and Laurence Norman (Mar 29)

“Prime minister’s notification opens a two-year window for negotiations to extricate Britain from the EU” – Link

*See also Politico Europe piece that looks at overview of policy areas.

U.S. Weighs Tariffs Against Vespas, Cheeses in Trade Beef With EU – Wall Street Journal – By William Mauldin (Mar 30)

“Trump administration faces decision on how hard to hit back against Europe’s strictures on U.S. beef imports” – Link

Mexican officials are game to renegotiate NAFTA — but with conditions – San Diego Union-Tribune – By Sandra Dibble (Mar 29)

“…Mexican officials say they are preparing for any future talks — and willing to walk away if their conditions are not met.” – Link 

Mexico’s bargaining chips with Trump? How about a corn boycott – Los Angeles Times – By Kate Linthicum (Mar 29)

“Mexico’s Senate is considering legislation calling for a boycott of U.S. corn, and the government has begun negotiating with Argentina and Brazil to import corn from those nations tax-free.” – Link

Trump Administration Signals It Would Seek Mostly Modest Changes to Nafta – Wall Street Journal – By Bob Davis (Mar 29)

“One change would be in government-procurement section of deal that could open up door for ‘Buy American’ policies” – Link

 

AG, AG TECH, PRODUCTION, PROTECTION, RELATED ISSUES:

Innovative Methven farmer proving you can be green without going into the red – TVNZ (New Zealand) (Mar 22)

“Craige McKenzie knows as well as anyone that productivity and profit can limit the ability of many businesses to be kind to the environment.” – Link   (*Note – Craige is GFN Board Director)

Scientists have developed a wheat that could aid the world’s malnourished millions – Food Navigator USA – By Gill Hyslop (Mar 28)

“Test results found the wheat increases the digestibility of phosphorus, calcium and other minerals in poultry.”Link

Omega-3 canola oil supplier filing for regulatory approval in Australia, US and Canada – Nutraingredients Asia – By Gary Scattergood (Mar 24)

Omega-3 canola firm Nuseed has filed for regulatory approval in Australia, with submissions for Canada and the US set to be lodged later this month.” – Link

We Can’t Diversify Economy Through Agriculture Without Biotechnology – Ogbadu – Leadership (Nigeria) – By Nkechi Isaac (Mar 28) – Link
Gene editing is different to genetic modification, so should its regulation be relaxed? – ABC Rural (Australia) – Analysis by Tyne Logan (Mar 30)

“Australia’s classification of genetic modification is inhibiting the country’s potential for future crop growth, according to a University of Western Australia (UWA) researcher.” – Link

California bulk citrus shipping change begins April 3 – Western Farm Press – By Todd Fitchette (Mar 29)

“…the state looks to curb the movement of Asian citrus psyllids [citrus-greening] on commercial loads.” – Link

 

POLICY, REGULATORY, ACTIVISM, OTHER:

Who Will Stand With Farmers – A Farm Wife, blog (Mar 24)

“So, another company has caved to the Non-GMO hysteria. A large feed company that we happen to purchase product from has partnered with the Non-GMO Project. Disappointing for us farmers to say the least.” – Link

Cargill Link to Anti-GMO Group Spurs Criticism From Farmers – Bloomberg – By Jen Skerritt, Shruti Singh, and Megan Durisin (Mar 28)

“Some of the farmers’ concerns are well-founded, in that the Non-GMO Project is not an unbiased, non-aligned, independent lab…” – Link

Cargill Proudly Partners with Non-GMO Project – The Farmer’s Daughter, blog (Mar 22)

“It is pretty clear that the aim of the organization [Non-GMO Project] is to end the use of biotechnology entirely, which we have seen from many in the pro-labeling movement. First you stigmatize it, then you label it, then you stop using it.” – Link

Why is Cargill partnering with an anti-GMO group? – High Plains / Midwest Ag Journal – By Shauna Rumbaugh (Mar 28)

“Cargill says there is a role for both genetically modified and non-genetically modified foods. I agree with that view, but that is not how the Non-GMO Project—which regularly tags posts on social media with the hashtag #SayNotoGMO or #GoNonGMO—views GM foods.” – Link

Making a pet project of hypocrisy – The Washington Times – Commentary by Richard Berman (Mar 20)

Where does the money go? Since 2012, HSUS has put more than $150 million of donor money into offshore accounts. Annual tax returns show that mysterious places like Fir Tree International Value Fund in the Caymans and Hayman Capital Offshore Partners in Bermuda…” – Link

Dow and Dupont merger gets EU go-ahead – BBC (Mar 27)

“The eventual plan is to split the merged company, DowDuPont, into three independent firms. The three companies would focus on agriculture, materials and speciality products.” – Link

MEPs oppose GM approvals but Commission will have the final say – Food Navigator -By Louis Gore-Langton (Mar 28)

“EU member states yesterday voted against the introduction and renewal of GM grains in Europe but failed to reach a binding majority, leaving the president of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker to make the final decision.” – Link

What drought? Sierra Nevada snowpack at 164 percent of normal – Los Angeles Times – By Paul Rogers, The Mercury News (Mar 28)

“So when is Gov. Jerry Brown [California] going to rescind or amend the drought emergency order he signed in January 2014? He hasn’t said…” – Link

Monsanto meets its match as Hindu nationalists assert power in India – Reuters – By Mayank Bhardwaj, Rupam Jain and Tom Lasseter (Mar 29)

“The leaders of these groups operate under the umbrella of the powerful Hindu nationalist group known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, Hindi for “national volunteer organization.” They speak of returning India to an ancient, Hindu glory that was ravaged by foreign imperial powers. More pragmatically, they’re amassing power.” – Link

Biotech Blog: A Bipartisan Way Forward on Future Biotech Products – Center for Science in the Public Interest – By CSPI Biotechnology Director Greg Jaffe (Mar 22)

“…there are several recommendations that should receive bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans.  If those recommendations are implemented, they would greatly improve the federal regulatory system for biotechnology products.” – Link

Pruitt: EPA ‘returning to using sound science’ on pesticide ban reversal – Washington Examiner – By John Siciliano (Mar 29)

“Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt slammed the brakes on an environmentalists’ push to ban a commonly used pesticide, saying the decision marks the return of sound science to the agency… He said the decision maintains “regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos, while still protecting human health and the environment.” – Link