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.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya
Paul Edwards
Capitalism Delenda Est
Norman Pollack
The Political Culture of Rape in America: Further Thoughts on the St. Paul’s School Case
Stephen Lendman
The Monied Interests That Run America
Pedro Aibéo
Democratizing Finance (With Bitcoin?)
Alfredo Acedo
Climate Change and Capitalism: Challenges of the COP21 Paris and Climate Movements
August 26, 2015
Paul Street
Overworked and Out of Time: a Democracy Issue
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Behind the Market Crash: the Smoke and Mirrors of Corporate Buybacks
David Mihalyfy
Reform Higher Ed? Treat Badmin Like Bankers
Ruth Hopkins
Police Shootings in Indian Country: Justice or Else!
Gary Leupp
ISIL Advances While Its Foes Cannot Unite
Fred Gardner
The Psychiatrist’s Bible: Defining ‘Marijuana Use Disorder’
Yorgos Mitralias
The Catastrophic International Consequences of the Capitulation of Syriza and the Criminal Responsibility of Mr. Tsipras
Walter Brasch
Katrina: a 10-Year Review
Jim Connolly
Seven Questions and Seven Answers: a Sandernista Makes Reasonable Predictions About the 2016 Contest for the Democratic Presidential Nomination
Pedro Aibéo
Selling Austerity to Finland
Franklin Lamb
Heritage Destruction in Syria is a War Crime
Binoy Kampmark
Tourism’s Disaster Temptation: the Case of Nepal
Jeffrey D. Pugh
Trial by Fire for Ecuador’s President Correa
Vacy Vlanza
A Palestinian Novel Par Excellence
Alvaro Huerta
Confessions of an ‘Anchor Baby’: Open Letter to President Donald Trump
August 25, 2015
Gary Leupp
Why Donald Trump is So Scary
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Thug at the UN
Steve Early
How “Brother” Bernie is Making Labor’s Day
Carl Finamore
An Affordable Housing Victory: High-End San Francisco Development Implodes
Henry Giroux – Chuck Mertz
The Spectacle of American Violence and the Cure for Donald Trump
Robert Eisinger
Trivializing Anti-Semitism
Brian Platt
It is Time We Discussed Abolishing the Police
Alexander Reid Ross
Trump the Fascist
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Mohammed Allan at the Door of the Israeli Supreme Court
Ted Rall
The United States of Stupidity
Heather Gray
A Message to American Mothers About Sex in the Military
Jo Leinen – Andreas Bummel
How to Democratize the UN
Lawrence Davidson
The Iran Agreement and Israel’s Claim to Speak for the Jews
Mark Hand
A Well Pad Next to Every 3-Car Garage: Suburban Sprawl Collides with Texas Frack Jobs
John Laforge
U.S. Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction is Vacated: Appeals Court Ill-Informed on Nuclear Overkill
Norman Pollack
Gender Freedom and Sexual Liberation: The St. Paul’s School Case
Kathy Kelly
Let It Shine