In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites »

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

Caffeine Regulations; Monsanto Wins in Court; Farm Bill Updates

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[Photograph: Shutterstock]

House and Senate Propose Farm Bills

This week, the House and Senate released their respective drafts of the Farm Bill. The Bill was scheduled to be passed in September, but the two Agriculture Committees couldn't reach an agreement. The new drafts are not quite compatible—the Senate version is 1,102 pages with $23 billion in budget cuts and the House version is 576 pages with $40 billion in budget cuts. The Senate Agricultural Committee approved their version of the bill in a 15 to 5 vote; the House Agricultural Committee will hold the same vote on their bill on Wednesday. For more details on the bills and their proceedings, check out Food Politics.

Proposed Cuts to SNAP Program

About 80% of the Farm Bill's cost to taxpayers is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. The program spends $80 billion each year on over 47 million participants. In the Senate Agriculture Committee's proposed Farm Bill, there are $4 billion in cuts to the SNAP program over the next 10 years. That could mean $90 less per month for hundreds of thousands of families receiving benefits. The Bill also includes heft stipulations to eliminate benefit fraud and ensure only qualified applicants receive benefits.

Supreme Court Decision Favors Monsanto

The Supreme Court passed a ruling in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., a case that many in the agricultural community have been watching closely for several months. Hugh Bowman, a farmer from Indiana, was sued by Monsanto for re-planting patented seeds. He appealed his case all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled unanimously in favor of Monsanto on May 13th. Justice Kagan wrote the opinion, which stated that Bowman couldn't replant and harvest patented seeds without the patenter's permission. The case further solidifies Monsanto's control of the seed market.

Food Reforms Halted in Congress

Two food reforms that have been floating around the Hill for several months—and that we've covered on this site—are being slowly shut out of political debate, according to The Salt. One is a piece of legislation that would set standards for living conditions of egg-laying hens. The legislation is a collaboration between the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers, an industry group. Another is President Obama's plan to reform America's food aid program. His plan would increase the efficacy of food aid distribution abroad and increase the amount of food aid being bought from local farmers. Neither item made it into the drafts of the Farm Bill produced by the House and Senate Ag Committees.

FDA Considering Caffeine Regulation

The FDA announced plans to investigate better regulation of the sale and consumption of caffeine. The agency is particularly interested in looking at the safety of caffeine consumption for children and young adults. This announcement came in the same week that Wrigley's pulled plans for its caffeinated gum after FDA reluctance to approve the product. Michael Taylor, the head of the FDA, said that setting a minimum age for caffeine consumption is not in the plans, but that the agency will set boundaries on consumption "if the science indicates that it is warranted."

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website.

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