agricultural revolution

Calyxt Hires Monsanto Exec as New CEO, Organic Sales Reach $45bn, Investors Back Animal Welfare, more

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Former Monsanto Exec Federico Tripodi Joins Calyxt

Ag biotech company Calyxt, a subsidiary of Cellectis, has appointed former Monsanto executive Federico Tripodi as its new CEO. The Minnesota-based company uses TALEN-based gene editing technologies to develop crops and food products with enhanced health aspects such as lower saturated fat canola oil. Tripodi replaces Luc Mathis who is a co-founder of Calyxt and is listed as the inventor of various patented processes using TALEN technology. It is unclear why Mathis stepped down, but he is understood to be staying on as a consultant to the company. Tripodi spent over 17 years at Monsanto in a variety of global- and Midwest-based executive positions focused on bringing a broad range of agricultural biotech products to the market. His commercialization experience includes farmer-focused seeds and traits, as well as products focused on the consumer, bioenergy, animal feed and industrial product market segments. Cellectis is a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing immunotherapies based on gene-edited CAR T-cells (UCART). The company’s mission is to develop a new generation of cancer therapies based on engineered T-cells.

Organic Sales Reach $45.2bn in 2015

According to a recent report from the Organic Trade Association, the organic sector posted its largest-ever dollar gain in 2015, growing $4.2 billion in sales compared to prior years. Total organic sales last year amounted to $43.3 billion. In a statement regarding the report, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reiterated the agency’s dedication to supporting the American organic industry through investment, grant funding, and other programs.

Monsanto Rejects Bayer’s $62bn Takeover Bid

Monsanto has rejected a proposed merger bid from Bayer to the tune of $62 billion but publicly revealed that it is not closing the door on continued talks with the German pharmaceutical company. According to Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, the company sees some “substantial benefits” to merging but felt the price tag “significantly undervalues” Monsanto’s worth. The merger would nearly quadruple Bayer’s market reach in North America and double its South American presence. Through the merger, Bayer’s strong pesticide department would be able to join forces with Monsanto’s leading seed tech business. For that same reason, however, antitrust concerns loom large on the deal’s horizon.

Institutional Investors Sign Statement on Farmed Animal Welfare

Representing over $2 trillion in assets under management, a group of 18 institutional investors have signed one of the first ever investor statements to touch on the subject of farmed animal welfare. According to the document, the signatories believe that farmed animal welfare is potentially material to long-term investment value creation in the food sector. The document commits the investors to taking account of farmed animal welfare when analyzing food companies and to encourage high standards across the food industry. They also highlight the Business Benchmark on Farmed Animal Welfare as the framework that companies can use to assist the development and oversight of their farmed animal welfare practices.

PE-Owned Food Distributor US Foods Raises $1bn IPO

In this year’s second largest American IPO, US Foods raised $1.02 billion. During the 2016 fiscal year, the company reported roughly $23 billion in revenue while carrying approximately $5 billion in debt. The IPO proceeds will be used in part to pay down some of that figure. US Foods is the third private equity-backed company to raise more than $1 billion in an IPO since 2015. The move creates a way for the company’s private equity owners to offload their company shares after the failed attempt to sell US Foods outright to Sysco Corp for $8.2 billion was blocked by the Federal Trade Commission.

Whole Foods to Serve Beyond Meat’s First Meatless Burger

Whole Foods Market announced this week that it is going to start serving Beyond Meat’s first meatless burger product at its Boulder, Colorado, location. Plant-based protein alternatives are becoming a fast growing segment with reports indicating that between 2014 and 2015 sales grew nearly 9 percent. According to Beyond Meat, the burger emits the same smoky aroma of cooked beef while also oozing a synthetic blood derived from pulverized beets. A two-pack of the meatless burgers will retail for $5.99.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society is making a big push to encourage “meatless Mondays,” a recent trend designed to encourage omnivores to give up meat one-day a week. Reports indicate that the animal welfare organization has now set its sights on reducing global meat consumption after it made headway in its battle against caged egg production.

GAO Report Highlights Prevalence of Injuries in Livestock Processing Industry

A Government Accountability Office report released this week provided a review of how well the poultry industry is performing when it comes to ensuring worker safety and reducing injuries. According to the report, roughly six out of every 100 employees in the poultry slaughtering and processing industry experienced some on-the-job injury during 2013. This represents a decline from 10 out of every 100 reported during 2004. The Capitol Hill watchdog noted, however, that a number of employees who suffer injuries decline to report the incident over fear of retaliation or termination. It also noted that meat workers suffered more injuries than poultry employees.

Businesses Balk at Nutrition Facts Label Overhaul

The White House recently unveiled an overhaul of the nutrition facts panel label found on foods, which presents a paradigm shift compared to the label’s longstanding format. The FDA estimated that manufacturers would need to shell out between $600 million and $2.9 billion to switch to the new format. This week, six industry groups filed a paper with the Office of Management and Budget at the White House alleging that the FDA seriously inflated the benefits that would derive from the label change, including a belief that the new label would cultivate over $29 billion in benefits to the manufacturers. According to the paper, this estimate is almost 300 times too high, arguing instead that any benefits derived from the new label would top out at $1.8 billion. Overall, the industry groups, which included the Corn Refiners Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association among others, believe that the alleged benefits of the new label do not outweigh the associated compliance costs.

Congress Debates National Standard for Sell By Dates

Last week, Congress introduced two bills—S.2947 and H.R.5298) that would create a national standard for determining when and how foods must be date marked. Referred to as The Food Date Labeling Act, it would set a standard differentiating between foods that display a quality- and freshness-based label, versus foods that provide a consume-by label. In an attempt to take a bite out of food waste, the bill would also provide that food outside the quality-based date could still be sold or donated. This is not Congress’ first attempt at imposing a nationalized food date marking system, but a renewed attempt perhaps spurred by the recent surge in interest aimed at fighting food waste.

Minn. Governor Dayton and Land O’Lakes Announce Public-Private Partnership to Improve Water Quality in Minnesota

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and Land O’Lakes President and CEO Chris Policinski have announced a new public-private partnership to protect and improve water quality across Minnesota. This new partnership will create a liaison between the State of Minnesota with Land O’ Lakes and local farmers across Minnesota to improve water quality stewardship standards on their farms. The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program is a voluntary program for farmers and landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect and improve the state’s water resources. Since its inception in 2014, the program has certified over 150 farms totaling more than 83,000 acres. Together, the program keeps over 6.5 million pounds of sediment out of our rivers, while saving nearly 9 million pounds of soil and 4,500 pounds of phosphorous on farms, each year. Now, Land O’ Lakes, an agricultural cooperative company, will work to expand participation in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program through their ag retail network across Minnesota.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

– Farmers are tapping business school basics to help them navigate the downturn in farm profits, at NPR.

– After filing for bankruptcy, Hostess is back in action with a brand new plan, at FoodDIVE.

– The European Medicines Agency has called for a 65 percent reduction in the use of colistin in livestock production to preserve the drug’s efficacy for human use, at Reuters.

– China’s new dietary guidelines suggest its citizens should eat less meat, at Grist.

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