Diminish Standards Governing Food Production in EU
The crux of this problem is that TTIP will lead to abandoning the ‘precautionary principle’ in Europe. The Precautionary Principle is the system whereby chemicals and pesticides used in food production 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.
Under the terms of TTIP it is proposed that EU and US will mutually recognise standards in both blocks as being adequate, even though they are dramatically different. This means currently banned chemicals can enter our food chain. The EU has already begun weakening our pesticide laws to further enable the introduction of pesticides deemed too harmful for use up to now.
Unlike in the EU, US standards mostly only verify the safety of the end-product, so rather than enforcing good standards of hygiene at all stages of the food chain many producers resort to pathogen reduction treatments of the end product, such as cleansing poultry meat in chlorine or beef meat product in ammonia. Furthermore, US standards do not require the same stringent controls when it comes to product labelling and tracking as are required under EU regulations, making it harder to prevent or trace the spread of contaminated food product. Just last year there were deaths in Sweden and Australia due to a hepatitis outbreak traced to imported frozen berries. The origin of the berries could not be traced – this is a major risk of opening up the food chain and diminishing food safety controls.
Diminish the Rights of the Consumer and the State
In the US, farmers are permitted to inject their animals with growth hormone in order to lower unit costs while keeping the retail price up. This practice is banned in the EU due to consumer rights regulations that don’t allow the lowering of quality in the product/artificial increasing of the price.
Furthermore, US standards do not require growth hormone-injected product to be labelled as such. Likewise, US regulations do not require food manufacturers to label any of their product as containing GMOs. So even though the citizens of Europe have decided against allowing all but a few GMO-containing food products into our food chain, they and growth-hormone containing products may enter unlabelled from the US under the proposed terms of TTIP.
Also under the proposed terms of TTIP, any Member State that wishes to regulate to keep growth hormone or GMOs out can be sued for ‘potential loss of earnings’ through an ISDS.
Diminish the Small to Medium/High Value Agri-Food Sector
There are several ways in which TTIP could cause the demise of small food producers in Europe. Firstly, protective schemes such as the AOP, DOC, PDO and PGI for artisan food products could be dismanteled on the grounds that they are anti-competitive. This means that not only will products such as ‘Parma Ham’ no longer be entitled to distinguish themselves (other products can use the title ‘Parma’) the food producers will lose the essential derogations from industrial food production regulations that enable them to use their traditional-methods or exempt them from very costly upgrades to their facilities.
Also under threat is Country of Origin labelling. Under the terms of NAFTA (the FTA between Canada, US and Mexico), Canadian beef processors took a case to the WTO complaining that Country of Origin labelling was anti-competitive. The WTO ruled in their favour, the US amended its legislation this year.
Without market protections worthy small producers will struggle to compete on price and volume, or to maintain their own standards of production. Their loss would be not only to the local economies in which they operate, but also a social and cultural loss.
Food producers with quality products and comapartively low yields will be the most vulnerable to failure in a free market environment with the US. To put it in perspective, the average farm size in Europe is 14ha (smaller again in Ireland) while the average farm size in US in over 1000ha.
Producing products in such volumes, with lower standards and costs, would enable big US producers to flood the markets in Europe with cheaper product – which will cause the failure of tens of thousands of farms in Ireland alone. Ireland has approx 112,000 farms, two thirds of which are already vulnerable (according to our own Department of Agriculture).
The removal of non-tariff barriers such as food standards and regulations will cause substantial damage to Ireland and Europe’s quality agri-food sectors and the communities dependent on them.
To date the proposed plan for coping with expected farm failures is payouts from the European Rural Development Fund and ‘redeployment into other sectors.’