Food & Ag Industry-in-Brief: GMO Labeling Developments, USDA Organic Grants, Cage-Free Egg Expansion, more

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Secretary Vilsack Hosts Private Meeting to Hash out GMO Labeling Deal as Campbells Starts Voluntary GMO Labeling

On January 13, 2016, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a private meeting with 10 key industry stakeholders including food and ag producers, biotech companies, and public interest groups to discuss a potential compromise on the hotly debated issue of whether foods containing GMO ingredients should be labeled and who should be responsible for administering any labeling laws. Although the USDA has been tight-lipped about the meetings, sources indicate the group will meet again this week to potentially hash out the final details of a GMO labeling deal. The plan may impose a mandatory labeling system using QR codes akin to the food industry’s SmartLabel initiative. Meanwhile, major food producer Campbell’s has announced that it will start labeling products that contain GMO’s.

Applications Open for USDA Organic Agriculture Research Grants

The OARE Initiative, which seeks to solve critical organic agricultural issues through integrated research, education, and extension activities, is offering grant funding to projects that will enhance the production and marketing of high quality organic agricultural products. Projects should plan to deliver applied production information to producers. Fieldwork must be done on certified organic land or on land in transition to organic certification, as appropriate to project goals and objectives. For more information and application instructions, click here. Applications are due before March 10, 2016.


Major Poultry Producer Perdue to Offer Organic Chicken to Restaurants

One of the world’s largest poultry producers, Perdue, is expanding its foodservice offerings to include certified organic chicken, which accounts for 5 percent of the company’s poultry sales. The birds will be raised in a free-range, certified organic operation. Until  now, the company was offering its restaurant clients antibiotics-free poultry.

ConAgra Foods Transitioning to Cage-Free Eggs

Omaha-based ConAgra Foods has announced that it is moving toward 100 percent cage-free operations with a goal of completing the shift by 2025. The company’s Supplier Quality Program has outlined specific expectations for animal care, and will engage in continued expansion and refinement of the standards. The company joins a rapidly growing list of major food players that are also ditching cages, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Denny’s. According to ConAgra, 99 percent of American households purchase ConAgra products.

Bird Flu Case Confirmed in Indiana Turkey Flock

A case of high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), commonly referred to as bird flu, has been confirmed in a turkey flock in Southwestern Indiana, one of the country’s prime poultry production regions. The case represents the first instance of the devastating disease since it tore through US flocks last June resulting in the loss of tens of millions of birds. Although the illness does not pose a food safety risk for humans, poultry producers face major losses once the highly-contagious disease takes hold.

US Supreme Court Denies Review of Cocoa Slavery Case Allowing Case to Proceed

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition seeking review of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Cargill, ADM, and Nestlé could be sued in US courts over allegations that the companies aided and abetted child slavery on their suppliers’ cocoa plantations in West Africa. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2005 by a trio of Malian men who alleged that they worked as unpaid children on the plantations in the 1990s. The case will return to federal court in California.

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Image: Right2Know March – October 2011, by Daniel Lobo on Flikr.


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