December 7, 2015
On December 1st, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held a meeting entitle "Raising the Profile of Agriculture". The meeting was attended by approximately 100 representatives from academia, industry and government to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture, with a focus on identifying strategies to address workforce development to meet the projected shortfall in trained scientists and other agricultural workers needed to meet future demand. The animal sciences were well represented in the meeting including FASS Washington Representative Lowell Randel participated, FASS Science Policy Committee Past President Matt Koci, ADSA representative Ken Olson and others.
The morning program began with presentations from federal agencies including the US Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy and the Department of Education. Plenary presentations were then given by Wendy Wintersteen of Iowa State University, Steven Rhines of the Noble Foundation and Matthew Dillon of Clif Bar and Company. Each of the speakers stressed the critical importance of a strong agricultural research system to meet societal grand challenges and the need for building partnerships and developing a unified message in support of agricultural research. The morning program ended with a panel discussion with student leaders from the National FFA Organization, 4-H, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS).
The afternoon program included breakout sessions where small groups discussed various aspects of raising the profile of agriculture. Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science at OSTP opened and closed the meeting and expressed appreciation for the input received during the meeting. Dr. Handelsman indicated that OSTP will be examining the recommendations made and explore options to advance the cause of raising the profile of agriculture.
On November 5th, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on future innovations in agriculture. The purpose of the RFI is to discover new ideas that will spur innovation in agriculture and food systems and raise the profile of agricultural research. OSTP is seeking information about programs, public or private, that are actively working to innovate agricultural science, as well as areas of need in research, education, and training. Input is sought from biological and agricultural stakeholders, including researchers in academia and industry, non-governmental organizations, scientific and professional societies, and other interested members of the public.
The RFI includes the following list of questions for which it is seeking feedback:
- Over the next ten years, what are the most important research gaps that must be addressed to advance agricultural innovation?
- What interdisciplinary agriculture and food programs successfully impact agricultural innovation?
- What elementary, middle, and high school outreach programs are successful examples of introducing students to agricultural careers, and what are examples of effective ways to introduce agriculture to suburban and urban students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)?
- How can colleges and universities recruit STEM undergraduates into agricultural disciplines? What effect, if any, do introductory courses that engage students in discovery-based research have for this purpose?
- What resources are fundamental to addressing agricultural research needs?
- What further training is needed among agricultural professionals to take advantage of advances in agriculture research?
- Is there any additional information, not requested above, that you believe OSTP should consider in identifying crucial areas of agricultural research?
A full copy of the RFI can be found by clicking here. Responses can be provided through a web form on the OSTP site. They are due by December 4, 2015.
The federal government is currently funded through a continuing resolution that expires on December 11th. Congress is working to craft an omnibus appropriations bill that will provide funding for the remainder of FY 2016. One hurdles facing the appropriations process appears to have been avoided based on the announcement of language to restore funding for the federal crop insurance program as a part of the surface transportation reauthorization bill. Approximately $3 billion was cut from the crop insurance program as a part of the budget/debt legislation passed earlier this fall. Congressional leaders had agreed to restore the funding as a part of the omnibus spending package. This could have created significant pressure on other agriculture accounts, including research, should the Appropriations Committees have been required to find offsets to fund crop insurance. Instead, Congress found a way to fund crop insurance as a part of the transportation bill, which is scheduled for final action in December.
On November 10th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that is seeking public comment on the development of a policy to increase access to the results of federally-funded agricultural research. USDA will receive comments during two live teleconferences and via email through Dec. 9, 2015. USDA has stated that the goal is to help stakeholders understand and participate in planning for an increase in public access to scholarly publications and scientific data funded by USDA.
The two webinars and their topics have been scheduled. The first was held on November 23rd and focused on policy impacts related to scholarly papers. The second will be held on December 4th. Additional detail on the second webinar can be found below:
The conference begins at 2:00 PM Eastern Time on December 04, 2015; you may join 10 minutes prior.
Step 1: http://ems7.intellor.com/login/700706
Step 2: Instructions for connecting to conference audio will then be presented on your computer
You will be connected to the conference with the AT&T Connect Web Participant Application - there is no software download or installation required. If you are unable to connect to the conference by computer, you may listen by telephone only at 1-877-369-5243 or 1-617-668-3633 using 0392090# or Find an Alternate Number If you need technical assistance, call the Help Desk at 1-888-796-6118 or 1-847-562-7015.
Comments will also be accepted in writing through December 9th by either sending them online to: (USDAresearchaccess@nifa.usda.gov) or mailing them to:
United States Department of Agriculture
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
c/o Paul Tanger, Institute of Food Production and Sustainability
1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 2240
Washington, DC 20250-2201
On November 19th, FDA announced that it is taking several important steps regarding food from genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals, including the first approval for a genetically engineered animal intended for food, AquAdvantage Salmon. The agency is issuing two guidances for manufacturers who wish to voluntarily label their products as containing ingredients from GE or non-GE sources: a draft guidance on labeling foods derived from Atlantic salmon, and a final guidance on foods derived from GE plants.
The FDA officially approved AquaBounty Technologies' application for AquAdvantage Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that reaches market size more quickly than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon. FDA ruled that the application submitted regarding AquAdvantage Salmon meets the regulatory requirements for approval. The FDA determined that food from AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat and as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon and that there are no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon.
FDA also ruled that no mandatory labeling of the AquAdvantage Salmon is required. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA can only require additional labeling of foods derived from GE sources if there is a material difference – such as a different nutritional profile – between the GE product and its non-GE counterpart. In the case of the AquAdvantage Salmon, the FDA did not find any such differences.
In addition to the actions on GE salmon, FDA also issued final guidance on voluntary labeling related to foods derived from GE plants. Again, FDA has found no material difference between GE and non-GE foods that would lead to the requirement of mandatory labeling.
Additional information on FDA's actions can be found at the following links:
Draft Guidance on Voluntary Labeling of GE Salmon
Final Guidance on Voluntary Labeling of Foods Derived from GE Plants