The Irish Food Writers’ Guild shares many of the concerns expressed by fellow Guild member Darina Allen in the following statement on behalf of Slow Food Ireland.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement poses a serious threat to the well-regulated Irish and European food industry. One of the objectives of the TTIP negotiations is to achieve mutual recognition and harmonisation of food standards between America and Europe. Slow Food Ireland rejects these proposals.
The following are some of the areas around which Slow Food Ireland expresses serious concern about the TTIP:
The European Commission’s stated TTIP negotiating position is to abandon the ‘precautionary principle’. This is the system whereby chemicals and pesticides used in our food system must be proven to be safe for animal and human health prior to use. In the USA, the reverse is the case. Many carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals are used in food production there that are banned in Europe. The proposed TTIP mutual recognition system means we would no longer be able to ban these chemicals.
EU regulations currently require measures along the whole chain of production to guarantee the safety of the final product, while the US system mostly verifies the safety of the end-product and is therefore prone to resorting to pathogen reduction treatments. For example, instead of preventing chickens getting infected with pathogens during all stages of rearing and slaughter, the poultry industry there resorts to dipping chickens in chlorine to eliminate bacteria at the end of the meat production chain. Again, the harmonisation of food standards proposed in TTIP would make it impossible to maintain our standards and continue to ban the import of such foods. With more chemical inputs and higher capital costs of production than in Europe, the US factory food system produces food at a lower unit cost, and will therefore create unfair competition.
In the US, growth hormone-injected beef and dairy herds lead to lower unit costs in the price sold to consumers but also to lower quality meat and the associated human and animal health implications; while only those using intensive factory farming methods and liberal use of antibiotics are able to stay in business. The objective of TTIP is to allow not only US unlabelled hormone-injected beef to be sold in Europe, but also to allow the sale of unlabelled American GMO (genetically modified organism) products as well.
All existing food regulations not explicitly overturned in the TTIP, and all future higher and improved standards of food regulation will be subject to being overturned by a proposed quasi-judicial system of arbitration called ISDS, or Investor-State Dispute Settlement. The EU-US proposal for TTIP is to establish a new legal system just for foreign ‘investors’ so that they can bypass the Irish, European and America judicial systems when they feel their current or future profits are being infringed upon as a result of vague, ill-defined government action such as, ‘unnecessarily restrictive barriers to trade’, or, ‘overly meddlesome barriers to trade’. This would include everything from what constitutes organic food standards to correct labelling to highlight food allergy contents.
So who will benefit from this agreement?
According to Slow Food, it will certainly not be consumers, who will see food information further weakened over longer food supply chains, nor will it be the large majority of small-scale producers, serving local markets, who make up the societal and economic fabric of quality food production, the guardians of the environment and food traditions.
If you would like to join the TTIP Information Network (@TTIPInfoNetwork) in sending out a loud and clear signal against trade and investment deals that threaten our democratic rights, food sovereignty, jobs and the environment, then you might be interested in taking part in the Global Day of Action this coming Saturday, 18 April, in Dublin.
You can find full details of the workshops, seminars and actions taking place on the TTIP Info Network’s website: http://ttip.ie/act-now/
You can also voice your concerns by signing the following petition, which already has over 1.6 million signatures: https://stop-ttip.org/