Unsavoury facts about transnational corporations & food

New transatlantic trade deal threatens our food standards, the environment, public services and democracy itself.  Are you like many are trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle and follow a healthy and balanced diet? Are you concerned about where the food on your plates comes from and how it was raised? Read on to learn about “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” or TTIP. Contributed by Susanne Schuster.

Since July 2013 the European Union and the USA have been in talks for the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, abbreviated TTIP. The expressed intention is to establish a Transatlantic Free Trade Area, TAFTA, between the countries of the EU and the United States – which will create the largest and most powerful trading bloc on earth.

TTIP will give huge new powers to transnational corporations. It threatens to undermine public control of services like the NHS and education, to erode environmental and food safety protection, to encourage controversial technologies like GM and fracking, and to give big business sweeping new powers to write and challenge law.

If this legislation comes into force the rights of investors will take precedence over the protection of our health, the environment and social rights. The rights of corporations will have higher priority than the sovereignty of states.

The proponents of TTIP claim that this trade deal will lead to massive job creation and economic growth. However, this promise is not even supported by the EU Commission’s own figures. A similar agreement between the USA and Mexico (NAFTA) led to a net loss of 1 million jobs and declining wages in both countries.

TTIP is driven by the interests of big business which is desperate for new markets and profit growth in a time of saturated and depressed markets. The negotiations are taking place behind closed doors and are dominated heavily by corporate lobbyists. One of the most shocking aspects is a provision that would allow corporations to sue governments for loss of future profits, which is already happening under a number of existing trade deals around the world.

Some of the greatest divergences in the trade relations between the EU and the US are found in the area of consumer and food safety and environmental protection, and the small farmers movement GRAIN has looked at what is at stake for EU citizens in terms of food safety. The EU currently bans beef and pork treated with growth hormones or growth promoters and chlorine washed chickens. The EU also requires labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and has many bans in place on the cultivation of GM plants. The US wants these bans removed. The US also wants the EU to refrain from banning chemicals like Bisphenol A that act as endocrine disruptors. A striking fact emerging from this report is the much higher rate of food poisoning and E.coli contamination in the US.

A report by Friends of the Earth Europe illustrates how TTIP will undermine any efforts to build healthier, more equitable and sustainable food systems, including initiatives both in the EU and US that promote healthier, more sustainable school meals.

A fundamental pillar of EU policy is the precautionary principle, which is threatened by TTIP; it requires that caution is exercised before any substance is approved, if it is unclear what harm it may cause. This doesn’t apply in the US: The government has to provide scientific evidence that a substance is harmful, before any caution or restriction is applied.

All of this raises many questions for those trying to live a sustainable lifestyle and follow a healthy and balanced diet, and who are concerned about where the food on our plates is coming from and how it was raised. How will TTIP affect our choices when it comes to buying equitably traded, nutritious and uncontaminated food?

Fortunately, citizens’ groups all over the EU are campaigning vigorously against TTIP and promoting alternatives such as food sovereignty. The forthcoming EU elections on 22 May offer an opportunity to vote for candidates opposing this trade deal. Also, on 12 July a day of action against TTIP will take place all over the UK, coordinated by a coalition of groups including the World Development Movement.

One thing is for sure: TTIP is a bad deal for citizens in every respect.

Recommended further reading on TTIP:

WDM – Briefing on Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

TTIP-TAFTA – The Sellout of our Democracy

Corporate Europe Observatory

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