WASHINGTON, April 14, 2016 - More than 40 farm groups are raising an alarm over a planned three-day meeting next week by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel over concerns about negative human health effects from the commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos. The meeting of the panel, EPA’s primary source for scientific peer review, could impact far more than just chlorpyrifos, the National Corn Growers Association and other groups said in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The farm groups complained in the letter that they had little warning of the panel meeting and because EPA is rushing the process, it is “attempting to fundamentally alter its process for evaluating potential risk and regulation of pesticides. EPA is moving forward as if the current regulatory process developed over four decades is broken.”

The panel has met twice before over health concerns related to exposure to the pesticide in 2008 and 2012 and last year issued a proposed rule to revoke all tolerance levels for the chemical after being ordered to by U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. EPA hasn’t issued a final rule and is still reviewing data on chlorpyrifos submitted by industry.

Key Democrat pledges to fight GMO promotion money. The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee says she’s going to work with the Senate to stop a spending measure that would provide $3 million to promote consumer understanding and acceptance of biotech crops, Agr-Pulses Phil Brasher reports. 

New York Rep. Nita Lowey argues that the science about genetic engineering isn’t settled. “The government shouldn’t be promoting acceptance when there is a very lively healthy debate on GMOs today,” she said. The provision is included in the fiscal 2017 spending bill for USDA and FDA. Lowey will have a well-placed ally in the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles the budget for USDA and FDA, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., He is the leading Senate proponent of labeling biotech foods. 

China not interested in TPP yet. Several countries have contacted the U.S. about eventually joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but China is not one of them. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said today on a conference call hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“We continue to have good dialogue with China on a whole range of issues and our trade and investment relationship including beef and biotech issues … and we continue to work with them to negotiate a bilateral [investment] treaty,” Froman said.

Furthermore, finding applicants for new membership will not be a priority until TPP has been ratified by the current members, Froman said.

“We’ve been approached by a number of countries about potentially joining in TPP,” Froman said. “We made clear to them that our priority and the priority of the other 11 countries right now is just the ratification among the 12 of us and to focus on the necessary steps to implement the agreement. As to the other countries, we take note of their interest and we’ll continue to have conversations with them to educate them about what’s in TPP … but right now our focus is on getting it ratified and fully implemented.

Almanza is back in Asia to talk catfish. Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred Almanza is back in Asia this week to meet with officials from countries like Vietnam that hope to be able to continue exporting catfish to the U.S. after USDA takes over food safety inspection from the FDA. The meetings in Vietnam may be tense because they come just after the country delivered a heated letter to the World Trade Organization, accusing the U.S. trying to block trade under the guise of new food safety requirements.

He said it: “Rural America probably can’t survive without earmarks.” That was California Rep. Sam Farr, ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, arguing that rural areas are disproportionately hurt when lawmakers can't direct money to their districts for infrastructure projects.



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