A USDA review of the American Egg Board's activities found instances of “inappropriate conduct” on the part of AEB officials, but stops short of accusing them of violating the law governing the checkoff. The investigation was triggered in October 2015 after complaints of AEB misconduct relating to an eggless mayonnaise made by Hampton Creek Inc. called “Just Mayo.” The investigation looked into nine separate allegations raised by Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick, but in a memo, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service said the report “did not find evidence to substantiate all nine allegations” against AEB.
In this case it was a Chinese national named Mo Hailong, aka Robert Mo, who was trying to steal patented corn seed for the Chinese bioengineering firm Dabeinong Technology Group Company (DBN), which he worked for, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Mo, a legal resident of the U.S. who was the director of international business for DBN, was sentenced this week in U.S District Court in Des Moines to three years in federal prison followed by three years of probation and an as-yet-to-be-determined-amount of restitution for conspiracy to steal trade secrets. This charge stemmed from a years-long plot, which began in April 2011, to steal high-yield, pest resistant bio-engineered corn seeds worth millions of dollars and bred by Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, and LG Seeds, according to the FBI. The conspiracy allegedly involved seven other Chinese nationals—including Mo’s sister, Mo Yun, the wife of the billionaire head of DBN, Shao Genhuo, according to eastern Iowa’s The Gazette. Her case was later dropped for lack of evidence and she, and the six others, have since returned to China where there is no extradition treaty with the U.S.
Following a roundtable discussion with dairy producers near La Crosse, Wisc. today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering to purchase $20 million of cheddar cheese to reduce a private cheese surplus that has reached record levels, while assisting food banks and other food assistance recipients. While USDA projects dairy prices to increase throughout the rest of the year, many factors including low world market prices, increased milk supplies and inventories, and slower demand have contributed to a sluggish marketplace for dairy producers and caused dairy revenues to drop 35 percent over the past two years. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs. Also at the roundtable, Vilsack shared details of a new report by the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist, which shows continued growth of the U.S. dairy sector is largely contingent on trade and that the Trans-Pacific Partnership could create an additional $150 to $300 million in annual U.S. dairy exports. Free trade agreements have contributed to the growth in U.S. dairy exports and helped to address tariff and nontariff barriers that disadvantage U.S. products in overseas markets. U.S. dairy exports to free trade agreement partners grew from $690 million in the year prior to each agreement’s entry into force to $2.8 billion in 2015, driven by lower trade barriers and increased U.S. competitiveness.
Federal regulators have released an update on the documentation needed to win approval of animal-raising claims on labels before they can appear on meat products. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) – which regulates labels on meat and poultry – wants more details on how claims such as “organic” or “raised without antibiotics” were achieved as animals were raised. The agency also wants to see documentation to support the claim to make sure the label is “truthful and not misleading."
Oxitec’s mosquitoes have been deployed in Brazil, Panama, and Malaysia, but Keys residents are thwarting attempts to try them in the U.S. The idea behind Oxitec’s experiment is that if enough genetically modified male A. aegypti mosquitoes are released into the wild, they’ll track down large numbers of females in those hard-to-find places and mate with them. The eggs that result from any union with an Oxitec mosquito will carry a fatal genetic trait engineered into the father—a “kill switch,” geneticists call it. The next generation of A. aegypti mosquitoes will never survive past the larval stage, never fly, never bite, and never spread disease. No mosquitoes, no Zika. “It takes one or two generations at least to be noticeable,” Lacroix says as he grabs a green fly swatter the size of a tennis racket and starts thwacking away at some of the mosquitoes flying around his head. A. aegypti’s life span ranges from two weeks to a month, so the company will know in a few months if the population is starting to decrease. If it is, Lacroix says, “we can roll out to the rest of the island, drawing down south through the peninsula.” Oxitec charges about $7.50 per person per year in each area it treats. While the price gets cheaper as the A. aegypti population decreases and fewer Oxitec mosquitoes need to be released, the treatments aren’t a short-term prospect: To ensure A. aegypti doesn’t come back, the company continues releasing its mosquitoes on an open-ended basis.
The first major compliance date for preventive rules for human and animal food under the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was Sept. 19. As of that date, larger businesses must comply with new standards; principally, manufacturers must meet preventive control and Current Good Manufacturing Practice (C.G.M.P.) requirements, and animal food companies must meet their specified C.G.M.P.s. The Food and Drug Administration in recent days issued the first draft guidance documents providing details on how food companies may comply with the new standards, and agency officials advised the food industry on what to expect in the next few months under FSMA.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced increased federal and private-sector support to expand and diversify the U.S. agricultural workforce by increasing opportunities in education, research and outreach. The announcement is part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Rural Council initiative, America the Bountiful, a collaboration with federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders to meet the growing demand for a skilled, diverse workforce in the rapidly evolving agricultural landscape. "The face of American agriculture is changing," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Nearly 10 percent of U.S. jobs are related to agriculture and the increasingly complex nature of production requires more training and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM fields—to stay competitive and meet the needs of a growing world for food, fuel and fiber. A report by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University projects that over 22 thousand jobs in agriculture related fields may go unfilled every year through at least 2020. This is a great opportunity for smart, young people to start careers in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges." OSTP convened scientists, educators, advocates and industry representatives to examine future workforce and food security challenges. Two fundamental goals have emerged: increase the number and diversity of skilled agricultural workers at all levels of education and expand research and training opportunities in areas that are experiencing particularly serious workforce shortages and are central to meeting future food needs.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has rejected another shipment of Vietnamese catfish because it tested positive for residues of banned chemicals. FSIS officials tested a 40,000-pound shipment of catfish and discovered traces of malachite green, a veterinary drug used to treat sick fish, FWW said in a statement. FSIS officials were not available for immediate comment. This is not the first time catfish imports from Asia were rejected since FSIS took over inspection of foreign catfish shipments from the FDA on April 15. FSIS blocked shipments from Vietnam and China in May and one importer conducted a recall of Vietnamese catfish products in June because the products had not gone through the inspection process. “The fact that FSIS inspection personnel have been able to intercept unsafe siluriformes and catfish products both from foreign and domestic sources in such a short timeframe shows what an effective inspection program can do to protect consumers,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The FSIS catfish inspection program is working and needs to continue in operation because it is preventing foodborne illness in the U.S.”
The USDA is not holding veal imports from the Netherlands to the same standards as U.S. veal producers when it comes to antibiotic use and pathogen testing, the American Veal Association (AVA) asserts. “The AVA is concerned the agency has failed to fully assess the Netherlands’ inspection and production system for veal in making its determination that the Dutch system is equivalent to the U.S. system, which is what the law requires before the agency may approve importation of meat or poultry,” the association said in a statement, noting news reports from the Netherlands that the first shipment of Dutch veal to the United States was made Sept. 23.
There was a certain kind of quiet hopefulness when, in late April this year, the last Ebola patient of the West African epidemic -- a two-year-old boy -- walked out of a treatment facility in Monrovia, Liberia. With the smoldering embers of the outbreak fading, there was cause for celebration. But there remains the impotent fear of the unseen: Ebola is still out there, lurking. We just don't know where it's hiding or when it will be back. And if we're going to stop Ebola in the future, we have to find its hiding places. Ebola is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can spread between animals and humans. It burns hot and fast through people. Its ruthless nature means that we are often the end of the line for the virus: a host like us that gets too sick too fast, that dies too quickly, cuts down the virus's ability to jump into a fresh body. To remain a threat, Ebola needs a safe house in which to lie low and hide.