FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Forcing GM Crops on Europe

by DAVID CRONIN

Over the past few weeks, two EU commissioners have been sounding markedly different notes about genetically modified (GM) crops.

First, the trade chief Karel de Gucht insisted that the Union was not going to “abandon” its biotechnology policy as part of a deal with the US. Eager to put a positive spin on the planned trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), de Gucht said that any “regulatory cooperation” stemming from the accord would be undertaken “without lowering the protection” to food and the environment.

De Gucht’s comments implied that the Brussels bureaucracy is either opposed to GM foods or has serious reservations about them. That must be news to his colleague Tonio Borg. As the EU’s health commissioner, Borg is busy trying to force these unwanted items onto our supermarket shelves.

Even though 19 of the Union’s 28 governments last week registered their opposition to a GM maize manufactured by the American firm DuPont Pioneer, Borg appears determined to approve it. The only “justification” for his patently anti-democratic behaviour is that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has deemed the crop to be safe.

EFSA relies on “studies” undertaken by the biotech industry (hence biased) when assessing new products. Independent research calling into question the safety of GM foods – such as that conducted by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini – has been rejected by the authority. De Gucht’s attempt to assuage public concerns was misleading. He knows very well that Monsanto, Syngenta and other firms determined to play a dangerous game with nature are frustrated with how a majority of EU countries have establish a de factomoratorium on planting GM crops.

EuropaBio, an umbrella group for makers of GM seeds, has a wish-list for the trans-Atlantic trade talks. It wants the EU to adopt the same kind of system for assessing GM foods as the American one.

The US approach is preferable, the association believes, because fewer questions are asked and less data has to be submitted when firms want to have their bids for new products rubber-stamped by officialdom.

De Gucht has been using different terminology depending on who his targeted audience is. Addressing the
9780745333335_p0_v1_s260x420Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York last year, he claimed that the “level of ambition” for the trans-Atlantic trade talks needed to be high “because the more regulatory convergence we can achieve between us, the more scope there is for this model to influence other countries around the world.” European citizens are far less likely than guests of a corporate-funded “think tank” like the CFR to applaud such blatant pleas to turn this continent into America’s copy-cat. So instead of “convergence”, de Gucht is now speaking of “cooperation”, a softer, more feminine word.

Strip away the semantics and we find that the agenda has not changed.

Both the EU and the US remain committed to establishing a specialised court, in which corporations would be able to sue and demand “compensation” from governments over laws or policies that put public welfare before the interests of capital. In trade jargon, this idea is known as “investor-to-state dispute settlement”.

De Gucht has announced that he will invite ordinary people to express their opinion on this matter. A three-month “public consultation exercise” on this topic is scheduled to begin in March.

If de Gucht was more honest, he would rename the whole thing a “public relations” exercise. Despite boasting that the trans-Atlantic talks have involved an “unprecedented level of openness”, his door has been mainly open to corporate lobbyists. Ninety-three per cent of all preparatory meetings which the European Commission’s trade department held before the negotiations were launched last summer involved representatives of big business.

Restrictions on planting GM foods in Europe are exactly the kind of things that are likely to be challenged in “dispute resolution” courts, run by pro-corporate arbitrators.

A separate – though not unrelated – trade deal which the EU has signed with Canada also provides for the establishment of such courts. CropLife Canada, a biotech alliance, wasted no time in expressing its delightafter that deal was clinched in October last.

In April 2013, Karel de Gucht dismissed as “all-in-all minor issues” the demands by Kentucky Fried Chicken that the EU lift its ban on washing poultry meat in chlorine. Less than a year later, he now wants us to believe that he is a valiant defender of food safety.

Who does he think he is fooling?

David Cronin is the author of the new book Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War published by Pluto Press.

A version of this article  was first published by EUobserver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A version of this article  was first published by EUobserver.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail