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Walmart to Launch E-Grocery Service with Uber and Lyft, EpiBiome Wins Award, Antibiotic Resistant E. coli Bacteria Found in US, more

June 3, 2016

Walmart, Sam’s Club to Test “Last-Mile Grocery Delivery” Using Ride Share Services Uber, Lyft

Mega grocery retailer Walmart and its wholesale chain Sam’s Club are going to see whether Uber, Lyft, and Deliv can facilitate a grocery delivery service for their customers. The Walmart annual shareholders meeting took place in Arkansas this week, and some of the discussion focused on the launch of a similar pilot program in Miami during March where Deliv is helping the retailers make deliveries. Customers will soon be able to make purchases online and request delivery for an additional fee during checkout. Denver and Phoenix will test the new service this week, with Uber test driving in one market and Lyft in the other.

Precision Microbiome Engineering Company EpiBiome Named Buzz of BIO Winner for 2016

EpiBiome, a precision microbiome engineering company, has been crowned a Buzz of BIO winner for the 2016 BIO International Convention in the category of “Technologies of Tomorrow.” The company will be recognized during the convention through an honorary company presentation on June 6. EpiBiome was selected as a winner because of its groundbreaking work curbing the growing threat of deadly multi-drug-resistant bacteria by eliminating the use of shared-class antibiotics in agriculture. Instead of antibiotics, the company deploys bacteria-specific viruses to kill bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus, which cause infection in livestock. “Our bacteriophage-based therapy represents a natural and effective alternative to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, which may be contributing to the alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections in humans,” said EpiBiome’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Nick Conley. “We are honored to be recognized by such a renowned organization for our efforts – one that shares the same values and vision of transforming the world through innovation.” In addition to being named a Buzz of BIO winner, EpiBiome will have an active presence at the convention, which runs June 6-9.

GreenStone Farm Credit Services teams up with Great Lakes Agtech Business Incubator

GreenStone Farm Credit Services, a rural community, and agricultural lender, has made a $25,000 contribution to the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator. The Incubator is a non-profit organization focused on helping farmers and entrepreneurs rapidly commercialize their ag-technology machinery, equipment, or software ideas and inventions. The incubator will use the contribution from the Michigan-based ag-lender to provide business startup services to clients. In addition to a financial sponsorship of the Incubator, GreenStone will offer its expertise to Incubator clients in areas such as financial counseling, lending to qualified clients and business finance training to clients and ag-tech entrepreneurs. Michigan’s Great Lakes AgTech Business Incubator launched in 2015 after the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners received a grant from the USDA to conduct a feasibility study into creating an agtech incubator for the region. Read more about the incubator on AgFunderNews.

Antibiotic Resistant E. coli Bacteria Found in US, Industry Groups Weigh In

Last week, a strain of the extremely risky pathogen E. coli was found in a female patient in the US raising serious alarms over the mounting problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Some groups including the Center for Food Safety noted that the colistin-resistant bacteria had also been found in a pig that was slaughtered in the US. Colistin, an antibiotic that is not approved for use in livestock in the US, is used pervasively in the EU and China. In November 2015, the antibiotic resistant gene, mcr-1, was identified in some countries in both pigs and humans. Reports indicate that pathogens resistant to conventional human antibiotics have claimed roughly 23,000 lives each year while leading to 2 million illnesses. Concern about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production has reached investors with one institutional investor collective worth $1 trillion recently lobbying investee companies to reduce or eliminate antibiotic use in their supply chains.

World Cocoa Foundation Announces Partnership to Address Climate Change in Cocoa Production

This week the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) launched a new program designed to strengthen collaboration between the public and private sector to address the threat climate change poses to cocoa sustainability and the many livelihoods the sector supports. The WCF-led partnership brings together ACDI/VOCA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and some of the world’s leading chocolate and cocoa companies. The effort involves numerous stakeholders across the cocoa value chain to develop solutions to climate and weather variability and deforestation, which pose critical economic, social and environmental threats to millions of smallholder cocoa farmers, national economies of cocoa producing countries, and the global cocoa and chocolate industry. West Africa accounts for more than 70% of global cocoa output, while Central America’s cocoa sector is smaller but has been growing rapidly in recent years. Climate modeling suggests that various regions may need to change crops and cropping strategies, or implement adaptive management practices, to maintain cocoa supply and viable livelihoods.

EPA’s Claims Atrazine Harmful to Plants and Animals

The Environmental Protection Agency released a draft risk assessment on widely-used weed killer atrazine, claiming that the herbicide poses a risk to plants and animals. Some industry groups fired back claiming that the science and research underpinning the study is based on misguided science. The agency could issue a final ruling that would ban the use of the herbicide. In response to criticisms about the science, the EPA stated that it “considered all available data on atrazine – including studies submitted to the agency in support of registration, as well as scientific open literature.” The assessment will be open for public comment. Before it finalizes the report, the EPA will hold the 14th Scientific Advisory Panel on atrazine. Meanwhile, an EPA judge recently ordered that any products containing flubendiamide must be pulled from shelves following the agency’s cancellation of the pesticide’s approval. Bayer Crop Science and Nichino America, manufacturers of flubendiamide, challenged the agency’s withdrawal of approval earlier this year.

US Department of Agriculture Invests $8.8 Million in Advanced Biofuel Support Payments

The US Department of Agriculture is investing $8.8 million to boost the production of advanced biofuels and sustain jobs at renewable energy facilities in 39 states. The funding is being provided through USDA’s Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Payments are made to biofuels producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include crop residue, food and yard waste, vegetable oil, and animal fat. Through this program to date, USDA has made $308 million in payments to 382 producers in 47 states and territories. These payments have produced enough biofuel to provide more than 391 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.

GMO Labeling Countdown: 26 Days

Congress returns from recess on Monday, June 6, and some lawmakers will likely get to work on hammering out a compromise on GMO labeling. Vermont’s legislation is still set to take effect on July 1, 2016, leaving Senator Pat Roberts and a handful of others who oppose the bill with a short window to pass a federal law that would preempt Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law. On May 24, 2016, Senator Roberts informed the media that he is confident a federal standard will be enacted in advance of July 1, 2016. Meanwhile, former White House senior advisor for nutrition policy Sam Kass is quite frankly fed up with the issue, stating at an event hosted by POLITICO recently that he “thinks this is one of the least important issues that has taken up a huge amount of our time, energy, and resources.” Kass also expressed his firm support for consumers’ right to know what’s in their food.

SodaStream Unveils At-Home Beer Brewing Device; Industry Antsy Over Proposed SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch Merger

SodaStream, which gave the existing soda market a run for its money with its homemade soda device, has launched a new device that will allow users to brew beer at home. Referred to as The Beer Bar, users add a concoction called Blondie to the system’s sparkling water to create beer in a matter of seconds, says Soda Stream. The company is also dabbling with a spin on its traditional device that will make homemade cocktails called SodaStream Mix. Currently, the device is only available in some European markets including Switzerland and through the company’s online store based in Germany. The Beer Bar is expected to land in other markets during 2017.

Roughly 200 industry members and local guild leaders from the Brewers Association met on Capitol Hill this week to garner support for the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform At, which would cut the excise tax impose on beer. According to the trade group members, this tax is a serious detriment to the rapidly growing industry.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew:

– The LA Times dug into whether microbiomes may change the fate of agriculture.

– The United States Supreme Court will hear a case that has broad implications for startups and the tech world, on AgWeek.

– The Associated Press has uncovered emails suggesting that the National Confectioners Association may have had behind-the-scenes communications with a group of researchers conducting a study regarding the effects of candy consumption in children, on FoodDIVE.

– Pizza Hut has released a statement announcing its new commitment to remove certain artificial ingredients and antibiotics from its products.

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