For the past few months, negotiators have been busy drawing up the terms of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade zone encompassing the United States and the European Union. While the foremost matter to
be settled is the removal of import tariffs, there are much more complex issues that must be addressed, such as consumer protection and environmental regulations.
A free trade zone is an entirely irrelevant construct if the producer is still blocked from selling their product in another market. In this case, the chasm between European food safety regulations and American ones is proving difficult to bridge. That’s hardly surprising: the EU has created a regime with some of the strongest consumer rights and protections in the world, whilst the US has its pitiful regulations practically written by lobbyists from the vested interests that are supposedly under control. That’s why British beef was banned from the Continent for so long even after BSE was banned. Good regulation can cost, but such costs are necessary: it is vital to ensure that the food on our tables is safe to eat.
Unsurprisingly, American negotiators are offended at the suggestion that their food isn’t safe enough for sale to Europe. They argue that over 300 million of their citizens are absolutely fine having eaten American food for all their lives. They haven’t all become sick, admittedly. But much of the population has been affected by the additives, the high fat and sugar levels, the weak labelling requirements that wouldn’t be permitted in Europe. American consumers are denied the information they need in order to choose whether to eat GM products or not. But worst of all is the risk posed by weaker hygiene standards in American agriculture.
Companies like Monsanto should not be let near our food supply under any circumstances. Yet disturbing farming methods like hormonal engineering are allowed to pollute good American produce. It represents another killer virus just waiting to emerge. The federal government should not be defending this status quo, it should grasp the opportunity to get a better deal for its people.
It is regrettable that European Union representatives in TTIP negotiations are offending their American counterparts, but it cannot be helped. Europe must never compromise on food safety, regardless of the political cost of not doing so.