1 of 16 Non-Competes Banned Nationwide, Plants Designed for A.I.

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FTC Bans Employer Non-Compete Agreements Nationwide
The FTC has moved forward with a national ban on non-compete agreements and clauses between employers and employees. The FTC final rule, published on April 23, spans over 560 pages and eliminates virtually any sort of contractual term or agreement that has the effect of being a non-compete clause. Under the rule a term or condition that prohibits a worker from, penalizes a worker for, or functions to prevent a worker from” working after his or her current employment ends is illegal. Existing non-competes with Senior Executives may remain, but new competes with them will also be prohibited after the effective date of the rule. Bottom line – the rule is very broad in its language and effect. The Rule will go into effect 120 days after it is published.

There are a small handful of exceptions, including the bona fide sale of a business, a person’s sale of their ownership interest in a business, or a sale of substantially all of an entity’s assets.

Employers should take note that the Rule requires them to give employees a conspicuous notice (i.e., in writing) that the employee’s non-compete clause is not enforceable and will not be enforced. The notice should be delivered before the Rule goes into effect.

Employers will need to take a hard look at their employment contracts and related agreements and be more detailed and purposeful in confidentiality, non-disclosure, and non-solicitation clauses. While these types of agreements are still permissible, if they are drafted too broadly, they could be encompassed with the FTC’s new rule and found unenforceable.

Lawsuits challenging the Rule were filed the same day it was released, so it will likely be delayed and maybe struck down at some point.

You can read more about the new Rule here.

New PPO Herbicide Tolerance Trait Granted Approval by USDA-APHIS
PlantArcBio, an Israeli ag-biotech company, has completed a regulatory review of a modified soybean containing a herbicide tolerance trait for protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) herbicides by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). New plant biotechnology products are generally reviewed by 3 agencies, including APHIS, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. APHIS reviews plant biotech products in accordance with the Plant Protection Act of 2000 to determine whether a modified plant may pose a plant pest risk, and therefore subject to regulatory oversight. APHIS’ review of PlantArcBio’s PPO modified soybean determined that it “is unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk relative to its comparators,” it is not subject to APHIS regulation and may move freely in the U.S. without a permit. This review clears one of the major hurdles in fully commercializing PlantArcBio’s modified soybean. You can read more here.

Designer Plants for the Artificial Intelligence Era
A group of scientists have proposed an interesting gene editing application for plants by changing the plants’ color or leaf shapes, making it easier for artificial intelligence robot weeders to distinguish from weeds. Advances in remote sensing technology have led to the development of robot weeders, which identify undesirable plants through computer “vision” and machine learning and then kill the weeds by spraying or zapping them with a laser. The authors of the proposal suggest that gene editing could be used to make crops express pigments already found in plants – e.g., anthocyanins for the blue, red, and purple colors in berries, or carotenoids for orange, yellow, and red colors in vegetables. They also suggest that plant leaf structure could be changed, or the color and shape of seed could be modified to make new plants easier to distinguish not only from weeds, but also wild counterparts of domesticated crops.

The proposal’s authors admit that more study is needed to understand potential ecological consequences, but many benefits could be realized from the burgeoning field of robot weeders. You can read more here.

Bayer’s Immunity Bill Advances in Missouri Legislature
The Missouri House of Representatives has given initial approval to a proposed state law that will immunize pesticide manufacturers from lawsuits. As we’ve reported previously, Bayer is lobbying state legislatures to pass immunity laws to shield them from lawsuits over their products. You can read more about the Missouri bill here.

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