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Industry-in-Brief: GMO Battle Wages On, Amazon Launches Fresh Food Delivery, Largest European Urban Farm Opens, more

March 4, 2016

The GMO Legislation Battle Wages On

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted in favor of Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) bill that would expressly preempt states from enacting mandatory GMO labeling laws. The bill is largely an effort to block Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling legislation from taking effect on July 1, 2016. Fourteen out of the 20 committee members voted in favor of the bill. The bill will now head to the floor for a Senate vote. Roberts’ bill bears many similarities to the 2015 Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (SAFLA), but lacks some of the stickier details that have stalled the bill’s progress. The House of Representatives approved SAFLA in July 2015 and the bill is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate.

Rumors are churning that there may be a third alternative to the battle over GMO labeling involving a voluntary disclosure program that also sets an adoption threshold. If the USDA concluded after three years that less than 85 percent of food manufacturers included GMO labeling information, a mandatory labeling law would take effect.

Also this week, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced a bill that would impose a mandatory labeling requirement on food producers. The bill would require a disclosure statement indicating that the product contains GMO ingredients to be printed on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Meanwhile, a recent study concludes that eliminating GMOs would pose a serious problem for both the environment and the economy.

Agricultural Data Coalition Launches Farmer Online Data Repository

A new initiative aimed at ensuring farmers retain ultimate control over their data launched this week. Known as the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC), the effort will build a repository that allows farmers to securely store their data and oversee it. The data can then be synced, transmitted to third-parties, and scrubbed at the farmer’s request. According to ADC, the platform works similar to an online banking system. A number of major ag players participated in the development of the ADC, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, AGCO, CNH Industrial, and a number of academic institutions.

Amazon Launches Fresh and Frozen Online Food Delivery Service in UK

Global online retailer Amazon has launched an online fresh and frozen food delivery service in the UK offering customers delivery in as little as one hour. The platform will add a few hundred new items to its existing packaged grocery goods offerings with an eye toward grabbing some of the existing market share away from Tesco, Wal-Mart’s Asda, Sainsbury’s, and online retailers like Ocado. This move could bring further upset to the UK grocery sector, which has already taken a hit as customers look for more frugal options like discount retailers.

Urban Crops Opens Largest Automated Urban Farm in Europe

Belgium is now home to the largest automated urban farm in Europe. The fully automated installation is 90 square-meters and features eight growing layers, creating a total growing space of 240 square-meters. The facility has the potential to produce 200 crops of salad per day and will be used exclusively for research and development purposes and for tests on new crops for customers around the globe. The developer, Urban Crops, held a symposium after the official opening to discuss the role of indoor agriculture in food production. The company started by producing turn key “plant factories” consisting of 40-foot growing containers.

World’s First Expired Food Supermarket Opens in Copenhagen

Food waste has become a hot topic recently, with reports indicating that some 130 million pounds of food are tossed each year. WeFood is hoping to change that by selling only food that has past its expiration date or that has been rejected from a supermarket due to aesthetic reasons. The market will offer these items at 30 to 50 percent less than the retail market price. Read more about WeFood’s mission at TechInsider.

USDA Issues Final Rule Repealing Country of Origin Labeling Standard

The Department of Agriculture has released its final rule repealing the mandatory country of origin labeling standards for beef and pork. The COOL provisions got the US into hot water with other countries who cited the labeling requirements as an unfair barrier to free trade. Congress repealed some of its provisions in late 2015 to avoid retaliatory WTO tariffs from Canada and Mexico and this new regulation will make it a done deal. According to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the move could avoid an estimated $1.8 billion in costs.

DuPont Names Former Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden as VP of Public Policy and Chief Sustainability Officer

Months after stepping down as Deputy Secretary at the USDA, Krysta Harden has joined global ag science and engineering corporation DuPont as vice president of public policy and chief sustainability officer. Based in D.C., Harden will have responsibility for leading the company’s public policy and government affairs strategies, as well as its sustainability, philanthropy, product stewardship and global regulatory activities.

Upstate New York Digs up Old Tech to Help Boost Local Meat Sales

Popular during the 1940s, meat lockers are making a comeback in upstate New York where consumers are hungry for more than just local produce and dairy. Using communal walk-in freezers that house 65 individual bins each, consumers can swing by and pick up local meat products at a monthly rental fee of between $5 to $8. Residents can choose to purchase a whole beef, half, or quarter and split the steaks to cut costs down even further. Read more about this old technology making new waves on Civil Eats.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • A new bill introduced in New York would prevent food stamp recipients from spending their benefits on so-called “luxury” foods like steak and lobster arguing that the benefits should only be spent on “essentials,” Mashable reports.
  • The newly forged Kraft Heinz corporation is joining the ranks of other companies opting for cage-free eggs.
  •  The EPA ordered manufacturers of the insecticide flubendiamide, including Bayer CropScience and Nichino America, to cease production after studies concluded that the chemical poses serious harm to aquatic species in streams and ponds that provide food for fish.
  •  TV personality Steve Harvey has teamed up with TEN Ag Tech to promote the startup’s egg-engraving expiration date and packing technology.
  • West Coast fast food chain In-N-Out Burger announces commitment to eliminating “beef that is not raised with antibiotics important to human medicine” in response to pressure from public interest groups that took issue with the restaurant’s beef sourcing.

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