Thursday, July 6, 2017

Agriculture Law Weekly Review - July 6, 2017

Written by Joseph Mooradian - Research Assistant

GMO Labeling: USDA Solicits Public Input On GMO Labeling

On July 29, 2016, legislation to establish the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard was enacted by Congress. This standard will be established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), who have recently called for responses to thirty questions on the subject, seeking comments no later than July 17, 2017. These questions upon which AMS seeks comment range from questions such as, “Should AMS consider more than one disclosure category?” to “How should AMS make public the summary of any examination, audit, or similar activity?” According to the 2016 legislation, the AMS standard must be established within two years of its enactment.

Antitrust: European Commission and Canadian Competition Bureau Clear Dow/DuPont Merger

On June 28, 2017, Dow and DuPont issued a joint update on their planned merger, which is due to close in August. The companies have met the conditions stipulated in the March 27, 2017, approval by the European Commission, bringing them within full approval from the E.U. This follows the June 22, 2017, approval by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as being joined by approval from Canada’s Competition Bureau. All three of these key regulatory approvals required some divestment. Dow and DuPont’s statement reiterates its plans for a new three-company structure in the wake of the reorganization.

Food Disparagement: BPI Settles with ABC Over Food Disparagement Claim

On June 28, 2017, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) settled its lawsuit with ABC Television over ABC referring to BPI’s beef product as “pink slime” over three hundred times in 2012. The final amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, although according to Journal Star, BPI claimed losses of roughly $400 million in the five year period since 2012. South Dakota, where the suit took place, has food libel laws, making it one of 13 states where suits of libel or defamation over food are easier to pursue.

Biosecurity: Bill Addressing Agro-Terrorism Threat Signed Into Law

On June 30, 2017, President Trump signed H.R. 1238, the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act into law. The law empowers the Department of Homeland Security to defend agriculture systems from terrorism and “other high-consequence events,” through amendment of the Homeland Security Act of 2002.  According to Senator Claire McCaskill, who was a co-sponsor of the legislation, “We don’t always think of a terrorist attack as a deliberate, mass food contamination, or the danger a major disease outbreak could pose… This bill is an example of setting aside difference to work across the aisle to keep American families safe, and that’s the greatest responsibility I have.”

Soda Tax: Court Stays Implementation of Cook County Soda Tax

On June 30, 2017, Judge Daniel Kubasiak of the Cook County Circuit Court issued a temporary restraining order staying the county’s beverage tax, which was set to go into effect the next day. The bill as introduced featured a wide range of regulations, including a $0.01 per ounce tax on all “bottled sugar-sweetened beverages, syrups, or powders,” as well as requiring all distributors of such items to acquire a permit. According to Food Chemical News, the lawsuit seeking to stay the law, brought by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, states that the law, “violates the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution and is impermissibly vague.” A further hearing is scheduled on July 12, to determine the future of the measure’s legality.

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