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USDA Approves Genetically Modified Apples, But Will They See The Shelves?

February 22, 2015

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On  February 13, 2015, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service approved the Arctic apple, a genetically modified strain of apple developed to resist browning.  A Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., first filed its petition for deregulation nearly three years ago.  The technology works by “turning off” the production of a certain enzyme that is produced when an apple is cut or bruised.  The Arctic apple is the one of the first deregulated genetically modified products designed to promote consumer-preferred traits, as opposed to traits like herbicide tolerance that promote certain production practices.

Notwithstanding APHIS’s approval, the question still remains of whether and how widely producers and consumers will adopt the technology in today’s environment surrounding GMOs.  Because it will be at least five to seven years before Arctic apple trees can bear fruit that can be marketed, producers will be required to do some significant

WTO Rules on Country of Origin Labeling

WTO Rules on Country of Origin Labeling

October 23, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed

You may recall prior Digest posts regarding the World Trade Organization’s evaluation of the validity of the US Country of Origin Labeling (“COOL”) law.

On Monday, the WTO decided against the United States and has held that the COOL violates international fair trade rules. This is the third time the WTO has found COOL to be unfairly discriminatory and it is instigating Canada and Mexico to prepare to impose trade sanctions on US products such as wine and chocolate.

Consumer groups have also voiced their disappointment about the recent decision. Renee Hunt, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, an organic advocacy group, said: “It comes at the expense of consumers and American livestock farmers…Consumers want to have the choice of where their meat comes from, but, instead, Big Ag’s interests are protected.”  Chris Waldrop, policy director at

USDA Prevails at the D.C. Circuit

USDA Prevails at the D.C. Circuit

July 31, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed

Yesterday, a D.C. Circuit decision came down upholding the country of origin labeling requirements (“COOL”). COOL is the law that requires retailers licensed under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act to, among other things, label certain meat products with information regarding where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.

In yesterday’s ruling, the Court took an expansive approach to the Zauderer standard and held that, at least in the context of meat labeling, the government can compel commercial speech for reasons beyond preventing deception.

Included in those reasons the court cited to were: “the context and long history of country-of-origin disclosures to enable consumers to choose American-made products; the demonstrated consumer interest in extending country-of-origin labeling to food products; and the individual health concerns and market impacts that can arise in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.”

Dissenting Judge Janice Rogers Brown criticized that the ruling means “a business owner no longer has a

Update: Canada Poised to Respond if COOL Requirements Stay As Is in the Farm Bill

A decision has not come down from the U.S. Court of Appeals regarding the USDA’s Country of Origin Labeling “COOL” law , but Canada is positioning itself to launch a trade-war with the United States just in case.

Earlier this week, the Farm Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and made its way to the Senate for approval.  A Senate vote is expected next week, but Canadians are not hopeful for an amicable settlement as the House did not make any substantive changes to the country of original labeling requirements.

Since 2008, when COOL was initially adopted, Canada has dissented, claiming that the it is far too costly and injures the meat industry.  Gerry Ritz and Ed Fast, Canada’s Federal Agriculture Minister and International Trade Minister made the following combined statement:

“By refusing to fix country-of-origin labelling, the U.S. is effectively legislating its own citizens out of

FDA Publishes Guidance on Proposed FSMA Produce Rule

July 15, 2013

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In support of FDA’s proposed produce rule implementing portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA issued today several publications to help small- and medium-sized growers understand their future obligations under the proposed rule.  FDA has been creating fact sheets to to describe requirements such as the obligation to assess potential routes of microbial contamination of produce.  The new publications include a fact sheet on the proposed agricultural water standards, which is one of those potential routes of microbial contamination.  FDA also issued a second fact sheet on alternatives and variances under the proposed produce rule, which will help producers develop alternative standards to comply with the rules.

FDA’s proposed produce rule remains open for public comment until September 16.  Like the proposed rule, FDA will accept comments on the fact sheets.

House Passes Farm Bill Without Food Stamp Program

The US House of Representatives passed Farm Bill legislation that was stripped of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), commonly known as the food stamp program. This was the first time since 1973 that the food stamp program was not part of the final Farm Bill, although SNAP remains part of the Farm Bill passed by the Senate.  The removal of SNAP stripped the Farm Bill of any remaining Democratic support in the House.  Rep. Frank Lucas, Republican Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has indicated that he intends to prepare a separate food stamp bill as soon as he can “achieve consensus.”

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