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Amazon Whole Foods
Amazon Whole Foods

Ag Industry Brief: Heat’s on Amazon, China Approves GMOs, Blue Apron IPO Investigated, more

July 24, 2017

Heat Rises on Whole Foods Amazon Deal

This week the purchase of Whole Foods Market by Amazon drew ire from two directions when the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Marc Perrone, announced that he would file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that the purchase would be unfair to grocery competitors even outside of markets where Whole Foods has stores. Read the complaint: “Amazon’s reach will ultimately reduce the number of grocery competitors that consumers can choose from… Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allow them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.”

Congressman David Cillicine (D) of Rhode Island is further challenging the deal by requesting of the Republican leadership of the House subcommittee on regulatory reform, commercial and antitrust law that the committee holds a hearing on ramifications of the deal before allowing it to go through.

Sam Clovis Nominated for Top USDA Scientist

The pending nomination of Trump campaign advisor and economic professor Sam Clovis to be the US department of agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics is generating controversy since Clovis has expressed doubts about climate change and the federal government’s role in crop insurance. Said Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow: “This nominee seems to lack the necessary agricultural science and research qualifications that are required by the farm bill,” Stabenow said in a statement, adding that she is worried about his “views on climate change and providing public investment in crop insurance and education.”

China Approves Two New GMO Crop Imports for Animal Feed, Leaves Four in Limbo

China approved this week a Syngenta insect-resistant corn variety and a Monsanto Roundup Ready variety to be sold in animal feed for three years. This is the second group of biotech products to be approved in the last month, but four other products, from DuPont, Dow, and Monsanto, are still pending approval and the industry is expressing frustration with the opacity of the approval process. China does not allow planting GMO seeds, so these approvals are only for the import of the crops for animal feed.

Arlon Invests in Brazil Dairy Company CBL Alimentos

Agriculture-focused private equity firm, Arlon Group has acquired a minority stake in CBL Alimentos SA (Betânia), based in Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. The large dairy company in the northeast Brazil, produces fluid milk, dairy drinks, and yogurt, among other dairy products. In conjunction with the investment, Bruno Martins Silva of Arlon has been added to Betânia’s board of directors.

Blue Apron Disaster IPO Under Investigation

A law firm is investigating whether Blue Apron breached its fiduciary responsibility to stockholders after posting the worst returns of any IPO this year, according to analysts. Blue Apron debuted on June 29 with a price of $10 a share. In premarket trading Friday, prices had fallen to $6.57 a share. Read more here.

Hampton Creek Board Quits En Masse

Every member of the Hampton Creek board except CEO Josh Tetrick have quit as of July 17, according to Bloomberg. This comes after revelations that there was an attempted coup from senior management earlier this year, that Hampton Creek was buying its own product in large quantities, and that Target pulled the product from their shelves pending a safety review. Tetrick said the moves were an attempt to give more power to his staff. “Ensuring our employees maintain their ability to direct our mission is as critical as the technologies we deploy and the products we launch,” said the written statement Tetrick sent to Bloomberg.

Finistere Gets New Monsanto Alum

David Duncan, after 20 years at Monsanto and several successful biotech startups, is joining Finistere Ventures to build out the firm’s MidWest presence. Duncan was preciously CEO of Pasteuria Bioscience, acquired by Syngenta in 2012, and of Chlorogen, whose chloroplast transformation technology was licensed to Dow AgroSciences. Duncan was also involved in Arborgen, a forestry joint venture and is founder of Colliant Global Ag, which advises agtech startups.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • New York City legislators propose changes to zoning laws to facilitate commercial urban agriculture, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • A new study finds that Brexit could lead to food “chaos” for the United Kingdom without addressing subsidies, migrant labor and food safety regulations, says The Guardian.
  • Minnesota joins the list of states investigating issues with Monsanto’s weedkiller dicamba after farmers complained of damage to soybeans fields caused by drift, write MPRNews.
  • The FDA has granted $30.9 million to states to help facilitate compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act. More from the FDA here.
  • Campbell’s Soup leaving Grocery Manufacturers Association over GMO labeling, read more in Food Dive

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