European Court of Justice rules on Gene Editing

On July 25, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that crops produced using the gene editing technique mutagenesis should be subject to laws restricting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The ruling stated that organisms obtained by new mutagenesis techniques are GMOs within the meaning of the current GMO Directive, in so far as the techniques and methods of mutagenesis alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally. The ECJ also ruled that the GMO Directive does not apply to mutagenesis techniques that have already been used conventionally in a number of applications and have a long safety record.

The ECJ ruling is very concerning to NAEGA.  It reinforces and validates the need for information on what gene edited seeds are being used and where they are being used. It also reinforces the need for low level presence provisions to support compliance with asynchronized national reregulation and meet trade and consumer needs.  The International Grain Trade Coalition will be encouraged by NAEGA to more aggressively move its policy forward and the NAEGA Production Technologies Committee will need to  work with renewed urgency and intensity in efforts to prevent the use of these new plant breeding technologies from causing debacles in trade like those we continue to experience from seeds produced with transgenic  biotechnology.

A related press release from the ECJ can be found here.

USDA plans to mitigate new tariffs

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced $12 billion in aid to farmers that are being harmed by retaliatory tariffs in response to U.S. actions as part of its Section 232 and 301 investigations. USDA aid will be dispersed through three programs:

  1. The Market Facilitation Program
  2. The Food Purchase and Distribution Program
  3. The Trade Promotion Program.

Through the Market Facilitation Program, producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs will receive direct payments in order to manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities, and develop new markets domestically and internationally.

Purchases of commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk will be made under the Food Purchase and Distribution Program and will be distributed to food banks and other nutrition programs across the United States.

The Trade Promotion Program is administered by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and is tasked with the developing of new export markets abroad for U.S. farm products.

The aid is expected to begin to be provided in early September.

IPPC Draft Strategic Framework for 2020-2030

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is inviting stakeholders to comment on the International Plant Protection Convention’s (IPPC) draft Strategic Framework for 2020-2030. A copy of the draft can be found here.

Comments should fall into one of three categories: substantial, technical, or editorial.

NAEGA members interested in contributing to comments should contact Gary or Ryan. All comments are due August 1, 2018.

Trade Mitigation, NAEGA Targets Markets for FAS

This week, NAEGA wrote to USDA FAS outlining potential opportunities for market development funding which could provide for increases in U.S. export sales and assist if current markets sales decrease significantly.  The letter followed a request from USDA FAS related to the USDA efforts to provide for mitigation in response to retaliatory tariffs against U.S. trade actions.  Increased funding of the USDA FAS Trade Promotion Program (TPP) could be used to provide for increased funding needed for the actions NAEGA proposes. Increases in TPP funding are part of a $12 billion aid package to agriculture that USDA announced on Tuesday, July 24 (see “USDA plans to mitigate new tariffs” in the news section). A copy of the NAEGA letter to USDA can be found here

China Trade

NAEGA is continuing its focus on the U.S. China trade environment armed with new analysis and action plans.

Recent analysis includes:

  1. An examination of the Grain Standards Act to provide for an understanding that grade quality factors, like Foreign Material (F.M.), are inappropriate and misleading as health and safety designations like APHIS is using on  phyto-sanitary certificates for U.S. Soybeans to China. In addition, the application of factors in this way is having a detrimental impact on competition and price.  The U.S. Grain Standards Act makes it clear that non-grade factors are not to be used in a misleading fashion. Regarding the “Use of official grade designations required” and “false or misleading grade designations for grain shipped out of the United States,” the act states that “(b) No person shall, in any sale, offer for sale, or consignment for sale, of any grain which involves the shipment of such grain from the United States to any place outside thereof, knowingly describe such grain by any official grade designation, or other description, which is false or misleading.”
  2. Informa Study on the impact of the APHIS imposition of the Additional Declaration
  3. NGFA Study on price impact of imposition of the additional declaration

Moving forward, NAEGA is:

  1. Responding to the USDA FGIS request for input on Standard for Soybeans, Canola and Corn. Timing of this consideration changes to the Official U.S. Grain Standards is excellent given the misleading use of the Standard’s soybean grade factor on Phytos for China.
  2. Working with FAS Trade Promotion Program authority to provide for a “Global Broad-based Initiative” (GBI) to address the China NTB dilemma. China has broadly articulated some of its needs in the form of its Decree 177 Import and Export measures for grain which suggest exporter nations present “protocols” to provide for compliance.  But China has provided insufficient details and has demonstrated a lack of appreciation for sound science and due process in its regulatory measures as well a very limited understand of safe, innovative and competitive capacity of the U.S. production and marketing system.  The USDA APHIS is attempting to deploy a systems approach related to one concern of Chinese regulators related weed seeds. If successful, the APHIS weed seed solution could be incorporated into the GBI.  The GBI will provide for studies and development of an aligned strategy to achieve the goal of mitigating China’s Non-tariff barriers to grains and oilseeds by providing for information to demonstrate how the U.S. and China value chain meets China’s import requirements.  This could be undertaken for multiple crops or start with soybeans.   Via a contract with capable and respected third-party project consultancy the follow steps will be integral to the GBI and include the following steps:
    1. Conduct a thorough review of all relevant studies and surveys already conducted.
    2. Establish and conduct a robust analysis of the respective outcomes related to China’s concerns to more completely understand the entire system. For example, the APHIS systems approach includes an effort to measure and understand weed seeds and foreign material is now being contemplated and includes sampling and testing along the U.S. supply chain.
    3. Document all aspects of the production, trade and consumption of the respective grain or oilseeds being addressed, including but not limited to, regulatory measures as well as commercial practices that are employed throughout to production and marketing value chain through to Chinese processing and use.
    4. Provide for a report and recommendations on how to provide for an aligned strategy to mitigate China’s non-tariff barriers to grains and oilseeds.
  3.   Finally, we are working with colleagues to communicate the negative impact of both tariffs and non-tariff measures in reaction the current geopolitcal environment that includes aggressive use of increased tariffs.

We continue to request your advice and questions.

IGTC Strategy Session

The final report from the IGTC’s Strategy Session in London, UK on June 18th is now available. This session covered key IGTC policy priorities on issues such as plant breeding innovation, the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol, low level presence, maximum residue levels, electronic trading documentation, phytosanitary control measures and more. Read the full final report here.

NAEGA members interested in getting involved with the IGTC’s upcoming policy objectives on pages 1 and 2 can contact the Katy Lee at