When Markets Misbehave, Send the Marines! (World Governments Get a Case of Bioeconomy Interventionitis)
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) The European Court of Justice has ruled that organisms altered via genome editing are GMOs and subject to GMO regulation in Europe, including warning labels for foods.
And in the US, President Trump announced $12 billion in relief for farmers impacted by the Administration’s trade policies in a move that was sharply criticized by Republican farm-state lawmakers, and US conservatives. As Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips acidly observed, “The US is essentially borrowing from China to offset the costs of tariffs imposed by China. It doesn’t get more Washington than that.”
Meanwhile, Acting EPA Administration Andrew Wheeler announced an expanded set of approved pathways for sorghum as a biobased feedstock under the Renewable Fuel Standard. And isobutanol got a push from EPA, too.
In short, central governments are intervening with force in the bioeconomy again. Let’s look at the action on both sides of the Atlantic, and the reaction.
The European ruling on gene editing: Nature good, people bad
In a ruling, the European Court of Justice said it “takes the view, first of all, that organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs within the meaning of the GMO Directive”.
What does “mutagenesis” cover? ECJ Advocate General Michal Bobek found in January that “an organism obtained by mutagenesis can be a GMO if it fulfills the substantive criteria laid down in the GMO Directive. A Directive does not require the insertion of foreign DNA in an organism in order for the latter to be characterized as a GMO, but merely says that the genetic material has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally.”
The court’s ruling upends an opinion released in January that “The Directive does not, however, apply to organisms obtained through certain techniques of genetic modification, such as mutagenesis.
In particular, the organisms covered by that Directive must be authorized after an environmental risk assessment. They are also subject to traceability, labelling and monitoring obligations.
The Farm Aid program, financed by bonds sold to China, to mitigate economic damage caused by…China
The legion of critics said that the Administration should be working harder to open markets, rather than erecting barriers that led to trade partner retaliation against US agriculture.
USDA will use the following programs to assist farmers:
• The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by Farm Service Agency (FSA), will provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs. This support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities, and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.
• Additionally, USDA will use CCC Charter Act and other authorities to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.
• Finally, the CCC will use its Charter Act authority for a Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in conjunction with the private sector to assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.
Reaction from farm state Republican lawmakers was hostile.
EPA says sorghum is OK for bioenergy
In Washington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved a variety of pathways for renewable fuel derived from sorghum, including biodiesel. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed the final pathway alongside Sens. Jerry Moran and Deb Fisher, Rep. Roger Marshall, the National Sorghum Producers, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Yes, 16% isobutanol fuel blends are not only OK, they’re officially OK
In June we reported that the Environmental Protection Agency announced the approval of isobutanol at a 16% blend level in gasoline for on-road use in automobiles. Previous to this isobutanol had been approved for on-road use up to a 12.5% blend. READ MORE