by Barbara Chicherio
July 20, 2013
Barbara Chicherio is
treasurer of the Gateway Green Alliance and National
Committee member of
the Green Party USA.
Something is looming in the shadows that could help erode our basic
rights and contaminate our food.
Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to
become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history, both in
economic size and the ability to quietly add more countries in
addition to those originally included. As of 2011 its 11 countries
accounted for 30% of the world's agricultural exports.
Those countries are,
Recently, Japan has joined the
Six hundred US corporate advisors have had input into the TPP.
The draft text has not been made
available to the public, press or policy makers. The level of
secrecy around this agreement is unparalleled. The majority of
Congress is being kept in the dark while representatives of US
corporations are being consulted and privy to the details.
The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto
If ratified the TPP would impose
punishing regulations that give multinational corporations
unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies
that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.
There appears not to be a specific agricultural chapter in the TPP.
Instead, rules affecting food systems and food safety are woven
throughout the text.
This agreement is attempting to
establish corporations' rights to skirt domestic courts and laws and
sue governments directly with taxpayers paying compensation and
fines directly from the treasury.
Though TPP content remains hidden, here are some things we do know:
Members of Congress are
concerned that the TPP would open the door to imports
without resolving questions around food safety or
environmental impacts on its production.
Procurement rules specifically
forbid discrimination based on the quality of production.
This means that public programs that favor the use of
sustainably produced local foods in school lunch programs
could be prohibited.
The labeling of foods containing
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
will not be allowed. Japan currently has labeling laws for
GMOs in food. Under the TPP Japan would no longer be able to
label GMOs. This situation is the same for New Zealand and
Australia. In the US we are just beginning to see some
progress towards labeling GMOs. Under the TPP GMO labels for
US food would not be allowed.
In April 2013, Peru placed a
10-year moratorium on GMO foods and plants. This prohibits
the import, production and use of GMOs in foods and GMO
plants and is aimed at safeguarding Peru's agricultural
diversity. The hope is to prevent cross-pollination with
non-GMO crops and to ban GMO crops like Bt corn. What will
become of Peru's moratorium if the TPP is passed?
There is a growing resistance to
Monsanto's agricultural plans in Vietnam. Monsanto (the US
corporation controlling an estimated 90% of the world seed
genetics) has a dark history with Vietnam. Many believe that
Monsanto has no right to do business in a country where
Monsanto's product Agent Orange
is estimated to have killed 400,000 Vietnamese, deformed
another 500,000 and stricken another 2 million with various
Legacies of other trade agreements that
serve as a warning about the TPP.
Trade agreements have a history of
displacing small farmers and destroying local food economies.
Ten years following the passage of NAFTA
(North American Free Trade Agreement) 1.5 million Mexican farmers
became bankrupt because they could not compete with the highly
subsidized US corn entering the Mexican market.
In the same 10 years Mexico went from a country virtually producing
all of its own corn to a country that now imports at least half of
this food staple. Mexican consumers are now paying higher prices for
Monsanto's GMO corn.
With little or no competition for large corporations
Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta now
control 57% of the commercial food market.
While the TPP is in many ways like NAFTA and other existing trade
agreements, it appears that the corporations have learned from
previous experience. They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure
that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food
safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions
under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.
If the TPP is adopted the door will be open wider for human rights
and environmental abuse.
Some of the things we should expect to
more large scale farming and
destruction of local economies
no input into how our food is
grown or what we will be eating
increased use of herbicides and
more industrial pollution
increased patenting of life
more GMO plants and foods
no labeling of GMOs in food
Together these are a step backwards for
human rights and a giant step towards Monsanto's control of our
Please pass the word to others about the TPP as most Americans are
unaware of this trade agreement or its ominous effects if passed.