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Excerpt: "If you think the U.S. government is doing a sub-par job of keeping your food safe, brace yourself. You could soon be eating imported seafood, beef or chicken products that don't meet even basic U.S. food safety standards."

Thai workers process shrimp at a factory in Thailand. (photo: Chumsak Kanoknan/Getty Images)
Thai workers process shrimp at a factory in Thailand. (photo: Chumsak Kanoknan/Getty Images)



Secret Trade Agreements Threaten Food Safety, Subvert Democracy

By Katherine Paul, Ronnie Cummins, Organic Consumers Association

16 June 13

 

f you think the U.S. government is doing a sub-par job of keeping your food safe, brace yourself. You could soon be eating imported seafood, beef or chicken products that don't meet even basic U.S. food safety standards. Under two new trade agreements, currently in negotiation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could be powerless to shut down imports of unsafe food or food ingredients. And if it tries, multinational corporations will be able to sue the U.S. government for the loss of anticipated future profits.

More frightening? Negotiations for both agreements are taking place behind closed doors, with input allowed almost exclusively from the corporations and industry trade groups that stand to benefit the most. And the Obama Administration intends to push the agreements through Congress without so much as giving lawmakers access to draft texts, much less the opportunity for debate.

Designed to grease the wheels of world commerce, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would force the U.S. and other participating countries to "harmonize" food safety standards. That means all countries that sign on to the agreement would be required to abide by the lowest common denominator standards of all participating governments. So for instance, say Vietnam allows higher residues of veterinary antibiotics in seafood than the U.S. allows, and Vietnam and the U.S. both sign on to the TPP. As a trade partner, the U.S. could be forced to lower its standards to allow for imports of seafood from Vietnam – or face a lawsuit by the seafood exporter for depriving the company of future sales of its products in the U.S.

The U.S. has already had a taste of this type of policy under the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). In 2005, the Canadian Cattlemen for Fair Trade sued the U.S. the U.S. government for banning imports of beef and live Canadian cattle after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Canada. In the end, the U.S. prevailed, but not until it had spent millions to defend itself in court. Mexico wasn't so fortunate when three companies (Corn Products International, ADM/Tate & Lyle and Cargill) sued the Mexican government for preventing imports of high fructose corn syrup. Mexico lost all three cases, and was forced to pay out a total of $169.18 million to the three firms.

Among the many gifts to Big Ag contained in the TTIP and TPP?  Back-door entry for their genetically modified seeds and crops. Countries, including those in the European Union, could find it increasingly difficult to ban, or even require the labeling of, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), if biotech companies determine that those countries' strict policies restrict fair trade and infringe on the companies' "rights" to profit.

The TTIP and the TPP are, individually and combined, two of the largest free trade agreements in world history. According to the Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) the TPP alone covers 40 percent of the global economy. That percentage will likely grow, because the agreement allows for other countries, besides the 12 currently involved, to "dock on" after the agreement is in place.

Both the TTIP and TPP could have dangerous consequences for food safety in the U.S., and around the world. But they're not limited to food or agriculture policy. Both also contain sweeping policies that could affect everything from the environment and sustainability, to healthcare, Internet freedom and the financial markets. Given the potential of these agreements to shape global policy on so many fronts, it's reasonable to assume that negotiators would actively solicit, and take into careful consideration, input from the affected parties, including consumers, farmers and governments. Instead they've taken the opposite approach. From day one, negotiations for the TTIP and TPP have been shrouded in secrecy. The public and participating governments, including the U.S. Congress, have been shut out of the negotiating process, denied access to everything from early proposals to final draft texts.

Why the secrecy? The Obama Administration wants as little public debate as possible, so it can ram the agreements through Congress using something called "Fast Track." Fast Track, a product of the Nixon presidency, strips Congress of its authority to control the content of a trade deal and hands that authority over to the executive branch. Congress gets a vote, but only after the negotiations have been completed, and the agreements have been signed. No debate. No amendments. Just a fast, forced vote, too late for Congress to have any influence. According to the CTC, two-thirds of Democratic freshmen in the U.S. House of Representatives have expressed serious reservations about the TPP negotiations and the prospect of giving Fast Track authority to the President. And more than 400 organizations representing 15 million Americans have already petitioned Congress to do away with Fast Track in favor of a more democratic approach to trade agreement negotiations. So far those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

If the public is shut out, and Congress gets no say, who gets a seat at the table? Corporations. That's right. The Obama Administration is trusting corporations like Dow AgroSciences, Cargill and DuPont, and trade groups like the Pork Producers Council and Tobacco Associates, Inc., to write food safety policies. In all, more than 600 corporations have been given access to drafts of various chapters of the TPP. Requests for the same level of access, from members of Congress and from the public, have been denied.

No wonder then that, according to leaked drafts obtained by groups like the CTC, Public Citizen and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), the TPP contains proposals designed to give transnational corporations "special rights" that go far beyond those possessed by domestic businesses and American citizens, says Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the CTC. Experts who have reviewed the leaked texts say that TPP negotiators propose allowing transnational corporations to challenge countries' laws, regulations and court decisions, including environmental and food safety laws. Corporations will be allowed to resolve trade disputes in special international tribunals. In other words, they get to do an end run around the countries' domestic judicial systems, effectively wiping out hundreds, if not more, domestic and international food sovereignty laws.

U.S. consumers aren't the only ones who should be up in arms about these trade agreements, the secrecy around their negotiations, and the Obama Administration's intent to fast-track them. Under the TTIP and TPP, consumers in countries that have stricter food safety regulations than those in the U.S. will see their standards lowered, too. For instance, Japan prohibits the use of peracetic acid to sterilize vegetables, fruits and meat, while the U.S., Canada and Australia allow it. Japan's health ministry, in anticipation of the TPP, has said the country will add the acid to its approved list. In all, Japan has approved only about 800 food additives, to the more than 3,000 approved in the U.S. Japan's consumers could soon see a sudden reversal of laws enacted to protect their health.

European consumers will also suffer. Europe has long used the precautionary principle to ban ractopamine in meat, chlorine rinses of poultry and the use of rBGH growth hormone in milk production. Under the TTIP, Europe could be forced to allow all three in order to meet the lowest common denominator rule. The precautionary principle removes the burden of proof from policymakers, allowing them to make discretionary decisions in situations where there is the possibility of harm, given the lack of scientific proof to the contrary. But that principle flies out the window under TTIP rules.

The Organic Consumers Association is urging consumers to petition President Obama and Interim U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro to release the draft texts of the TTIP and TPP, and encourage full and open debate on the policies contained in both agreements. The petition also asks President Obama to end the Fast Track option, and grant Congress the ability to debate and amend the agreements, before voting on them.

With the world's food supply, and consumers' health, already endangered by chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and climate change, the U.S. and other governments should be looking for ways to promote sustainable food and agriculture policies, not restrict governments' abilities to do so. Instead, the Obama Administration is subverting the principles of democracy in favor of handing a few transnational corporations unprecedented power to put profits above the health and well being of consumers.

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+36 # Arturo Tha Cuban 2013-06-16 16:51
It's really time to get the money out of politics!
 
 
+45 # ghostperson 2013-06-16 21:57
OMG is there no end to the bull shit...answer "no." And no labeling to tell us what is in the stuff.

I figured it out...our corporate masters are trying to end human existence.

That is the only thing that explains what corporations and their wholly-owned subsidiary, the government, is doing.
 
 
+11 # kochadoodledoo 2013-06-17 07:30
If this passes we'll be eating bull shit!
 
 
0 # kochadoodledoo 2013-06-17 07:31
In that case, maybe they are doing Planet Earth a favor!
 
 
+2 # RLF 2013-06-18 06:38
Maybe we'll all die but they will be richest when it happens!
 
 
+19 # David P 2013-06-16 22:41
Transparency alwas out the window before Day 1 of this presidency.

We have truly become a country, "of, by, and for the corporation".
 
 
+7 # mdhome 2013-06-18 10:36
Unfortunately it started long before Obama became president.
 
 
+8 # cordleycoit 2013-06-16 23:14
Free trade means slave trade. Something liberals don't get, Walmart means Chinese food standards: yum yum. It also is a death sentence for third world farmers. The Americans will stave them to death or migration to Texas.
 
 
+4 # RLF 2013-06-18 06:38
Free trade also means Chinese wages.
 
 
+4 # Walter J Smith 2013-06-18 07:30
It also means more air, water, land, gene pool, and social pollution along with continued growth in pollitical corruption.

Which, in turn, means it is getting more difficult year by year to grow your own safe food.

But, neighbors working together to reclaim their citizenship and mutual aid and gift/barter economies (growing their own food, canning/drying/ freezing it, cold storage, etc.) can opt out of the vast majority of the trade disasters.
 
 
+29 # bobaka 2013-06-17 00:11
Managing the remnant slave population, sometimes referred to as "citizens," necessitates putting the gangrenous corporate food on every shelf in the poison food market for all those who never produce any of their own food themselves.. Induce disease, early death, silence through suffering, and egomania as the solution to insignificance, and the container ships steam across the acidic seas. Mock outrage at the outrageusness of our lords fills the page, and that is all.I am an organic farmer. The corporate state, the fascist state, makes many mass market elitists millionaires as is their manifest destiny given their genetic superiority. ALEC writes and the whores of congress sign.The TPP is no different. In the cities the rat race outpaces monitoring. There will be no time for reflection, and then you will be old and die. The poison market shelves will still dispense the death timebombs--GMO' s, ag chemicals, radioctivity, and the slave/citizen feels a sore throat coming on and a tumor like in the French rat study grows out of the stomach until it is larger than the rest of the slave/citizen's body.I live rurally and will continue to do so. I have a garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens and ducks, a greenhouse and work with Occupy Ukiah. Localize: tune in, drop out, escape, create a sanctuary with family and friends. Now.
 
 
+11 # kochadoodledoo 2013-06-17 07:33
Thank you for speaking THE TRUTH, even though it does hurt. You are a wise person.
 
 
+26 # L H 2013-06-17 02:31
My dear Democratic Senators don't get it. They sent me back their emails, and political loyalty to the president has them blind-sighted and ready to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership that will put other nations and corporations above our State Law and the US Constitution. Why didn't they learn from our collapsed economy not to agree to any more trade agreements? And now our food is threatened? If it isn't Monsanto, it's another Trade Agreement!

But this isn't really just a trade agreement, it is forced globalization and removal of sovereignty!

Time for our own "Victory Gardens" and shopping only at farmer's markets!
 
 
+3 # Walter J Smith 2013-06-18 07:35
The Democratic Party's elected officials, like the GOP's do not believe in democracy/repub lican traditions at all.

Those names are merely the rhetorical smoke screens they use to sustain their positions on the backs of the happily self-deluded voters who keep putting them there.

And we can all focus on what is possible for us to do right where we are, right now. Every day. Because the bipartisan loathesome sleaze peddlars will never change their loathesomeness or sleaziness.
 
 
+17 # RnR 2013-06-17 04:24
Another example of the transparency of our fed government. The problem is, that no matter how many march, make phone calls, scream at these a-holes in the federal government (and I mean every one of them all the way to the top) they ignore us. As if we were not even there...
 
 
+14 # walt 2013-06-17 07:03
In a nutshell, one more example of the corporate take-over of all government.

Without a doubt, we are seeing and living in a plutocracy. Maybe the next step will be to choose what corporation one will belong to.
 
 
+12 # MidwestTom 2013-06-17 08:20
Every pound of imported food is one pound that is not grown or raised here. Next cut the farmer support portion of the farm bill, drive all of the little private guys out of business, and then all we will have is giant corporate farms owned mainly be insurance companies. In some counties in northern Illinois and Indiana insurance companies like Metlife and John Hancock own over half of the acreage now in some counties, and they NEVER sell. Unemploy more Americans so other lower cost producers can prosper.
 
 
+9 # cmp 2013-06-17 10:47
“The top 200 Corporations in the World control 58% of the World’s Wealth. These same 200 Corporations employ 0.2% of the World’s population.”
~David Korten; The Post Corporate World; 1999~

The corporate owned Government Leaders and the corporate owned Media, now refer to the demonstrator’s at the G-8 Summit and anyone else who question’s the modern colonialism, which is Corporate Monopoly Globalization as, “Anti-Capitalist.”

With 7 billion people on the planet, who are the ones that are “Anti-Capitalis t?”
 
 
0 # Walter J Smith 2013-06-18 07:37
Notice how quickly Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein jump on the "truth-telling is treason" bandwagon along with the other bipartisan sleazers?
 
 
+5 # jwb110 2013-06-17 11:00
Back-door entry ....that about says it.
 
 
+4 # Vardoz 2013-06-17 15:28
The climAte in which we live places the importance of people's health on the back burner. The united states now has the highest cancer rate in the world. Between radioactive food from Japan and surrounding nations, pesticide pollution and farm raised and ocean pollution sea food, our food is poison. This is the problem with lack of regulation accoutability and protections. Business has no consideration for human health or the health of the planet. So we should all call our reps and demand safety food or they will kill us, our children and are already killing our planet. Be careful of what you eat and where it comes from.
 
 
+3 # Walter J Smith 2013-06-18 07:40
"The climAte in which we live places the importance of people's health on the back burner. The united states now has the highest cancer rate in the world. Between radioactive food from Japan and surrounding nations, pesticide pollution and farm raised and ocean pollution sea food, our food is poison."

That is all a normal development where citizens have surrendered their citizenship and still cling to the notion that petitioning tyrants will make the tyrants into angels.

Be careful which fairy tales you believe in.
 
 
+3 # mdhome 2013-06-18 10:46
Have we learned nothing from the lead in childrens toys from China and the chemical contamination of milk that ended up with dead babies and the chief guy getting the death penalty?
 
 
+3 # Anarchist 23 2013-06-18 11:56
The TTIP and the TTP have turned our Constitution and our national sovereignty (along with our status as 'citizens) into TP.
 
 
+2 # moonrigger 2013-06-18 12:26
To get a handle on how this all developed, read Pat Mooney's book, Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity, University of Arizona Press, 1990, ISBN 0-8165-1181-0. It is sad indeed that after all we know, instead of avoiding environmental disasters concerning our food, it's just getting worse. Even those of us who are trying to grow our own food have to contend with genetically modified seeds/pollen getting into our home grown plants. Raise your voices, your fists, your pitchforks, folks....! This is VERY important.
 
 
+3 # michelle 2013-06-18 12:52
Back to the trouble with food. I've always made or mostly always made my own bread since the 70's. The other day I was out of bread, too tired to make it and thought, 'it won't kill me to buy a loaf of bread. The corporations have removed HFCS so what could go wrong.' I came home without bread. While reading the label, I noticed there was soy flour in the bread. The only reason I can think of for adding soy flour is to up the protein content in the bread. Isn't soy one of the biggest GMO products? There is no reason, other than price and protein content, to use it in bread. I've been avoiding soy products because of the GMO issues.

Eating responsibly is becoming more and more difficult these days. The comments referencing China are right on target. Who wants 'organic' if it is grown in Chinese soil with Chinese water and then transported all the way here.
 
 
+2 # DEBORAHG 2013-06-18 21:16
More then 70% of breast cancer patients are estrogen receptor . . . soy is estrogenic . . . meaning dangerous to more then 70% of breast cancer patients/surviv ors. That all by itself should be a very important reason not to use soy in foods especially GMO soy. Unfortunately soy is cheap and in everything. Sadly, the medical industry does not do a good job of telling their breast cancer patients to BEWARE OF SOY as it's estrogenic properties can actually fuel cancer cells.
 

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