President Barack Obama signed S.764, the compromise genetically modified organism legislation, making it now the law of the land.
The legislation stops Vermont’s mandatory labeling law that went into effect on July 1 and prohibits any state from having standards different from the national standards. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a strong supporter of the legislation, said the Vermont law had left Vermont consumers with “fewer products on the shelves and higher compliance costs for small businesses.”
Even before the president’s signature was dry, FoodDemocracyNow! said it would be mounting a legal challenge in the coming weeks for the law’s numerous legal problems including its “infringement on the 14th amendment of the Constitution that guarantees “equal protection for all.”
Legislation looks to reform checkoffs
Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) have introduced legislation, the “Commodity Checkoff Program Improvement Act of 2016,” to bring greater “transparency and accountability” to federal commodity checkoff programs.
The senators indicate checkoff programs and boards have received criticism in the past for a lack of transparency, apparent conflicts of interest, misuse of their funding and anticompetitive behavior. Booker says, “When checkoff programs engage in anticompetitive activity, it is a threat to a dynamic and informed free marketplace. This bipartisan legislation will help increase transparency and restore trust in checkoff program practices.”
The legislation would:
- Prohibit checkoff programs from contracting with any organization that lobbies on agricultural policy;
- Prohibit employees and agents of the checkoff boards from engaging in activities that may involve a conflict of interest;
- Prohibit checkoff programs from engaging in anticompetitive activity, unfair or deceptive acts or practices, or any act that may be disparaging to another agricultural commodity or product;
- Require transparency through publication of checkoff program budgets and expenditures;
- Require periodic audits by the USDA Inspector General for compliance with the Improvement Act; and
- Require a GAO audit of checkoff program compliance and a report with further recommendations related to checkoff programs.
Assessing human health risks from animal drugs
The Food and Drug Administration is revising its guidance for drug manufacturers to assess whether animal drug residues in food pose a risk to humans.
The draft guidance, “General Principles for Evaluating the Human Food Safety of New Animal Drugs used in Food Producing Animals,” describes the type of information that FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine recommends drug manufacturers provide to address the human food safety of new animal drugs used in food-producing animals.
The FDA’s draft guidance, which replaces a 2006 version, provides updated science and assists companies in determining when the residue of a new animal drug in or near food “presents a reasonable certainty of no harm to humans.” Public comments on the guidance are due by Sept. 19.
Democratic platform emphasizes ag
The Democratic platform adopted in Philadelphia emphasizes the need to invest in Rural America, build a stronger rural and agricultural economy, and provide a “focused safety net to assist family operations that need support during challenging times.”
The platform speaks of strengthening rural water, sewer and broadband infrastructure to make rural businesses more competitive. The platform says, “We will expand access to equity capital for businesses and expand the New Markets Tax Credit to better serve rural small businesses. We will promote collaborative stewardship of our natural resources, while developing clean fuels that will grow our economy, lower our energy bills, combat climate change, and make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. We will provide assistance to producers who conserve and improve natural resources on their farms and double loan guarantees that support the bio-based economy’s dynamic growth.”
The platform’s trade section says any future trade agreements must make certain that trading partners cannot “undercut” American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy and environment and that we need to “significantly strengthen enforcement of existing trade rule.” It goes on to say that “we should oppose trade agreements that do not support good American jobs, raise wages, and improve national security.” That platform does not contain the Bernie Sanders’ proposal that would have specifically opposed TPP.