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European Union member states are under increasing pressure from North American business groups to open their borders to imports of genetically modified food as part of negotiations for a new Transatlantic trade deal, environmental campaigners have warned.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is being negotiated among European governments, the US and Canada, with the active participation of dozens of large businesses. It has already attracted strong criticism from democracy campaigners, who say it could mean the European Union could have to open the National Health Service further to private companies, and complaints against large companies could be treated in secret without proper legal recourse.
The potential impacts on food safety are less apparent as the negotiations are being conducted without public consultation. Progress on signing the partnership is expected to be hastened later this year when new EU commissioners are appointed.
The European commission has strongly denied that the partnership would allow North American companies to circumvent EU food standards, particularly with regard to genetic modification. A spokesman for the commission told the Guardian: “TTIP will not change the way we regulate GMOs [genetically modified organisms] in Europe. EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht stressed that publically many times. The EU has its red lines in the negotitations and the GMOs is one of them.”
However, documents from various US and Canadian government agencies and business trade bodies suggest strong pressure is being brought to bear from US industries to allow GM products and other foods into EU markets that would violate the EU’s current standards, in the name of free trade. The US Department of Agriculture and Foreign Agricultural Service has explicitly identified “the EU’s non-tariff barriers to US agricultural products”, specifying in particular “long delays in reviews of biotech products [that] create barriers to US exports of grain and oil seed products”. The term biotech is generally used to refer to GM products.
The European commission says that the EU would not be forced to allow imports of GM foods under the TTIP deal. “Will the EU be forced to change its laws on GMOs? No, it will not. Basic laws, like those relating to GMOs or which are there to protect human life and health, animal health and welfare, or environment and consumer interests will not be part of the negotiations,” according to a Q&A on the EU’s website. (Source: The Guardian)
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