TTIP, Farming and Food
There is a very real risk that TTIP will only benefit big agriculture and thus will be detrimental to the viability of smaller farms. One of the conclusions from a recent European Policy Conference was that agriculture should be excluded from TTIP. There are many proponents of this view on both sides of the Atlantic with strong arguments about the negative effects of TTIP, saying that the agreement will trade away good food and good farming.
Many of the conclusions in the "Increased Trade for Better Living" conference in June 2015 echoed those of an earlier conference, "TTIP Talks: What's Cooking? Perspectives on Food and Farming."
TTIP – Increased Trade for Better Living? Conference conclusions:
This European Policy Conference was held in Brussels and included participants from the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Demeter Biodynamic Agriculture and arc 2020 (agriculture and rural convention, a platform of organizations working together for good food, good farming and better rural policies in the EU). Along with agriculture, the participants discussed promoting a fairer and more sustainable EU trade policy:
"Agriculture should be excluded from TTIP, instead the following aims must be implemented in all trade relations:
- Emphasis should be placed on developing local and regional markets and food economies. Agricultural products are part of our culture. We should protect and support local and regional product identities, supporting the cultural differences across the EU.
- Trade agreements must enable trade partners to make sovereign decisions on the authorisation of imports of certain products based on the precautionary principle. Independent science must be used to assess chances and risks. Other relevant socio-economic and environmental impacts on agricultural production must be taken into account when making decisions.
- To ensure access to a wide range of open pollinated and traditional plant varieties and GMO free food for consumers, effective measures to avoid GMO contamination in imported goods must be in place.
- There are substantial differences between the US and the EU in production systems and legislation which may result in unfair competition and may potentially lower standards. Increasing pressure from agribusiness may result in further intensification of animal farming, thereby potentially lowering existing animal welfare standards and threatening future improvements and adjustments of animal welfare law (‘regulatory chill')."
TTIP Talks: What's Cooking? Proceedings of the conference:
This conference, organized by the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, brought together Europeans and Americans representing civil society organizations to discuss the potential impacts TTIP will have on food and farming in the EU and the US.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director Friends of the Earth Europe – FOEE:
"First of all, it is important to look at who will benefit from TTIP and who will bear the risks. It is clear that the big winners will be big corporations and big agribusiness. Who will lose: citizens and the environment on both sides of the Atlantic. It is estimated that TTIP will lead to a 0.5% decline in farm incomes on average. In addition, it is unsure whether TTIP will lead to a net increase in trade or diversion of trade…
EU food safety regulation builds on a whole food chain that addresses the safety of food produced at all stages, while the US is pushing for their system which focuses on end of production treatments like chlorine rinses. It is important to maintain food safety legislation that looks at all stages of production and how to effectively reduce risk in each part of the food chain.
The necessary regulations are there to protect people, the environment, to protect our rights, and the social system that we have in Europe and want to have in Europe, and should not be traded away."
Ms. Stoczkiewicz also wrote an article for atlantic-community.org about the risks of TTIP for people and sustainable trade.
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director International Strategies at Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy – IATP, an American organization focused on fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems:
"There is progress happening at state and local levels, there is progress led by civil society organization and in state legislature. We are very concerned that TTIP can undermine these fragile gains.
In conclusion, experiences with TTIP and other free trade agreements such as NAFTA, will lead to further intensification and dramatic increases in market concentration in the food and farming sector. IATP has expressed its concerns about how TTIP and free trade agreements will affect efforts to build more sustainable food systems, how regulatory convergence will make it more difficult to regulate toxic chemicals and how the EU's push to open US public procurement at local state level will affect efforts to strengthen rural economies. All of these concerns have not received any answers yet. This short sided approach should be opposed."
It is apparent from these conclusions and statements that there are many concerns about the effects of TTIP on agriculture. There is a very real risk that TTIP will only benefit big agriculture and thus will be detrimental to the viability of smaller farms. Furthermore, this risks compromising standards of "good food" and "good farming," particularly for small farms in the United States and Europe. This is an issue that is most likely to be difficult to solve and therefore, it may very well be true that agriculture should be excluded from the final TTIP agreement in order to preserve good agriculture standards and guarantee the continued relevance and viability of small farms.
This article is part of our project TTIP Review supported financially by the US Embassy in Berlin. Click on the link to read more articles and our governance rules.
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