The organisations Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Compassion in World Farming, ARC2020, Friends of the Earth Europe and European Coordination Via Campesina co-published a report that describes in details threats from the currently negotiations of the EU-US trade agreement (TTIP) on food and farming systems. It explains how TTIP could promote industrial methods of food production, threatening the survival of small family farms, undermining local food initiatives, undermining standards for healthy and safe food, animal welfare, the environment and public health.
Agribusiness corporations, including food and drink multinationals, supermarket chains, agri-traders and seed producers, are strongly lobbying the European Commission on TTIP in order to remove or minimise existing regulation and delay future regulation on protection of workers, animal welfare, public health and environment according to a survey done by Corporate Europe Observatory. The report’s authors present a serious concern that TTIP could gradually alter if not speed up the transitions in diets from traditional and largely unprocessed foods to diets high in fat, sugar and salt, closely linked to the onset of diseases such as obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The European Commission has repeatedly committed itself to high food safety standards in the EU. However, this is now threatened by TTIP, which seeks to remove differences in current rules between the EU and the US that are seen as ’trade-distorting’ either by harmonisation or mutual recognition.
A classic example of this is the understanding of health risks: in Europe the precautionary principle guides the decision as to whether a product is sufficiently safe to enter a given market. Whereas in the US, the system focuses on a consensus obtained from scientific evidence on the safety of the end product. While mutual recognition means easier market access for exporters, it could also mean that less stringent rules could have serious impacts on human health and the environment.
The EU-US trade deal may threaten small and medium sized family farms through increased competition from intensive, industrial US farms. The differences in current standards are important to overall cost-competitiveness, for example regulations on environmental pollution, working conditions and labour rights, and animal welfare standards, meaning that attempting to ‘harmonise’ rules to the lowest standard would have a dramatic impact.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been a huge challenge in both the EU and US. There are stricter standards on antibiotic use in livestock farming in Europe. Intensive animal agriculture involving antibiotics or hormone-based drugs has been linked to the development of antimicrobial resistance in humans and hormonal system (endocrine) disruption. The non-therapeutic use of antibiotics and hormones for growth promotion is not permitted in the EU, although there are questions over proper enforcement. In the US, despite attempts to regulate, use of antibiotics and hormones for growth promotion is still not prohibited.
© Ilustration: The Greens – European Free Alliance
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