Written by M. Sean High – Staff Attorney
The following information is an update of recent, local, state, national, and international legal developments relevant to agriculture:
Biosecurity: Illegal Horsemeat Seized by Border Officials
On February 16, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that undocumented horsemeat has recently been seized by department agents. According to CBP, on January 29, 2017, two travelers from Mongolia attempted to enter the U.S. with 42 lbs. of horsemeat concealed inside juice boxes. CBP stated that due to concerns of foot and mouth disease, “[h]orsemeat is prohibited from entering the United States if it is not accompanied by an official government horsemeat certification from the country or government it originates.” The Mongolian travelers were not criminally charged and were released to continue their visit. Subsequently, CBP incinerated the seized horsemeat.
Animal Welfare: APHIS Animal Welfare Act Compliance Resources
On February 17, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the posting of documents relating to the regulating of federal research facilities under the Animal Welfare Act. According to APHIS, the documents are annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports and “are part of a comprehensive review of the documents the Agency removed from its website in early February.” The documents are available for review on the APHIS website.
Biotechnology: Chinese Scientist found Guilty of Stealing Engineered Rice
On February 16, 2017, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) announced that a Chinese scientist has been found guilty of “conspiring to steal samples of a variety of rice seeds from a Kansas biopharmaceutical research facility.” According to DOJ, Weiqiang Zhang, a Chinese national residing in Manhattan, Kansas, worked as a rice breeder for Ventria Bioscience (Ventria). DOJ stated that “in the summer of 2013, personnel from a crop research institute in China visited Zhang” in Kansas and that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found seeds belonging to Ventria in the luggage of Zhang’s visitors as they prepared to leave the United States for China.” As a result, Zhang “was convicted on one count of conspiracy to steal trade secrets, one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property and one count of interstate transportation of stolen property.”
Labeling: Meeting Announced for Use of Term “Healthy”
On February 16, 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published notice in the Federal Register announcing a “public meeting entitled “Use of the Term `Healthy' in the Labeling of Human Food Products” (82 FR 10868). According to FDA, “[t]he purpose of the public meeting is to give interested persons an opportunity to discuss the use of the term ‘healthy’ in the labeling of human food.” The meeting is scheduled to be held on March 9, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel, in Rockville MD.
COOL: Extension of Comment Period for Venison Requirements
On February 17, 2017, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published notice in the Federal Register announcing a comment period extension regarding proposed amendments to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations (82 FR 10966). AMS stated that the new amendments seek to add the “regulation of muscle cuts of venison and ground venison to mandatory COOL requirements.” Accordingly, the comment period the proposed change has been extended from March 14, 2017, to April 13, 2017.
National Organic Program: Extension of Comment Period for Allowed and Prohibited Substances
On February 17, 2017, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published notice in the Federal Register announcing a comment period extension for a proposed rule regarding the National Organic Program (82 FR 10967). According to AMS, “[t]he proposed rule would remove eleven substances from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances for use in organic production and handling.” The comment period for the proposed rule has been extended from March 20, 2017, to April 19, 2017.
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