TTIP and CETA Jeopardize EU Agriculture and Environmental, Animal Welfare and Consumer Protection Standards
According to official communications from both sides, TTIP focuses on the harmonization of standards and mutual acceptance of control systems. EU officials state that sensitive issues such as growth hormones or GMO admissions will not be watered down. Nobody, however, can explain how this can be guaranteed in practice.
US trade officials insist that all remaining EU trade barriers which they consider "non-trade concerns" and/or "non-science based decisions" be removed, such as the EU-ban of growth hormones (like synthetic estradiol and anabolic steroids) and beta-agonists (like ractopamine) in meat production. They also pressure for faster, simplified admission of GMOs in the EU.
Three good reasons to stop TTIP and CETA
1. No harmonization without diluting EU standards: The standards and control systems on both sides of the Atlantic are completely incompatible. The EU´s "Principle of Caution" stipulates that substances will only be admitted after a thorough risk analysis if proven innocuous. In the US and Canada, approval is usually granted within six months after application on the basis of industry-led studies - with often questionable proof of innocuousness. One example: The FDA´s approval of GM soy Roundup Ready - and all other GM plants since! - is based on Monsanto´s assumption of "substantial equivalence", i.e. no "important differences" compared to conventional soy. This assumption was based on a short-term (9 week) feeding trial by Monsanto, where mice were fed RoundUp Ready soy grown in a greenhouse - without ever having been sprayed with the herbicide RoundUp to which it was made resistant by genetic engineering! These are hardly real life conditions. The actual risks of GMO for the environment, animals and people have never been properly assessed.
Such opposing systems cannot be harmonized, it´s either or. The US has been pressuring the EU through WTO-complaints (for example against the hormone beef ban), and the EU is already starting to grant concessions, including weak legal proposals for cloning and GMO, to make TTIP possible.
2. Neither comparable laws nor inspection systems: Contrary to the EU, there are no federal animal welfare laws in the US or Canada, nor on-farm or transport inspections. Even if EU standards were upheld, but large quantities of specially produced meat were to be admitted into the EU, the Commission officials could not carry out sufficient inspections to protect European consumers from fraud (like hormone beef) with its staff of just five FVO inspectors responsible for checking compliance in the 28 Member States plus all countries certified for export to the EU. The planned mutual acceptance of control systems would mean for the EU to trust unfit inspection systems in the US and Canada.
3. The issues with growth promoters: Cattle, dairy cows, pigs and poultry in the US and Canada are treated legally with a series of growth promoters that are illegal in the EU, like synthetic hormones, antibiotics and beta agonists. Residues are often difficult to trace in the meat once the animals have been slaughtered and there are no long term studies on their effects - which doesn´t mean they are not potentially harmful to consumers, the environment and animals. Beta agonists, for example, are suspected to cause severe lameness in cattle.
Furthermore, a US study showed that growth promoters used in beef cattle entail a cost advantage of over 8%-a substantial disadvantage for European farmers who would be ruined by this unfair competition.
In summary, the planned harmonization of standards and mutual recognition of control systems jeopardize the EU´s agriculture and animal welfare, environmental and consumer protection standards, as the US press for acceptance of growth promoters, GMO and cloning for food production while refusing clear labelling. Clauses like "ISDS" and the "Permanent Regulatory Council" (PRC), already widely (and justly) criticized by others, would increase the predominance of companies´ over public interests, as looming law suits and permanent early interference in the legislative process would undermine existing and impede the evolution of standards in the EU.
Food and agriculture concern society´s core interests, so TTIP negotiations should be put on hold and CETA submitted to a broad public debate with participation of national parliaments and civil society.
Sabine Ohm is an Economist and European Policy Officer at PROVIEH, VgtM e.V.
This article was published in the second of three theme weeks for our project "TTIP: Myths vs Reality". An introduction of the articles for the week can be found here, and introductions of the other two weeks can be found at the top of the TTIP Forum.