Trading Away our Future?

10 Mar 2014

On March 13, Slow Food will participate in a public event: Untangling the trade talks: What are the likely consequences of an EU-US trade deal for our food and environment? 

Organized by Friends of the Earth Europe, the conference will highlight a range of concerns around food and farming in the context of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations. The TTIP is an agreement that has been under negotiation between the EU and the US since July 2013 with negotiators hoping to agree on a TTIP text by the end of this year. If agreed on, it will be the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history.

Up for discussion are rules about food safety including genetically modified products, toxic chemicals and highly polluting fuels. In this sense, the outcome of the TTIP negotiations entails several risks e.g. lowering standards towards the lowest-common denominators. At present, the negotiations are being held behind closed doors. On the European side, the European Commission has the mandate to negotiate on behalf of its member states, but the European Parliament and civil society are not involved. The negotiating mandate and other documents are not available for public scrutiny. In the US, only a limited number of trade advisors – mostly from business backgrounds – have access to the negotiating documents, under strict confidential conditions. There is thus an urgent need to put the interests of society and the sustainability of the food system at the heart of the discussion.

On March 13 in Brussels, representatives from a range of sectors in the EU and US will elaborate on the threats to sustainable food and farming, food safety and consumer choice. Speakers will include representatives from the US Family Farm Coalition, the European Consumer Organisation and the European Commission. Marta Messa, Slow Food representative in Brussels, will point out that the well-being of human health and the environment should not be negotiable issues. The event coincides with the fourth round of trade negotiations happening in Brussels on March 10 – 14. This will be followed by an EU-US Summit on March 26.

Slow Food, present on both sides of the Atlantic, is calling for improved transparency and the involvement of civil society.

Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA, said: “We are deeply concerned about this rush towards deregulation, lowering control and transparency in our food system, which will actually bring a great deal of incoherence, because at this very time communities in the United States and throughout Europe are trying to regain more control over knowledge about food labeling, sources of our foods and the manner in which our foods are raised. In the US there is a growing interest in order to reinforce the state of local rural communities, children’s health and decisions about what foods we eat. The TAFTA will undermine these efforts”.

According to Ursula Hudson, President of Slow Food Deutschland (Germany) said, “The TTIP as it stands at the moment is not at all acceptable. Instead of the TTIP we need different things: We want democracy, transparency and legal protection for human beings instead of more rights for corporations to sue. We want the preservation and future development of European environmental politics, the standards that we have achieved so far, instead of their subordination under the logic of free trade.” 

Watch the video messages here from Richard McCarthy and Ursula Hudson: 

Photo credit: Friends of the Earth


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