I received this statement in an email yesterday, circulated to the UK food group as a statement of concern about the on-going, and largely unmentioned, progress of the EU-US Transatlantic Trade Agreement. Not only is it pertinent and well-written, it clearly succeeds in drawing attention to concerns that everyone should be paying attention to. The Transatlantic Trade Agreement threatens to undermine the food security of all of us, not to mention allowing US-approved products into our food-system, which contain chemicals or medicines that are currently banned in Europe. Please share this statement where possible, this is a vitally important issue that we should be hearing more about.
Land Workers’ Alliance statement on Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership
“We are a coalition of farmers, growers and land workers representing the interests of small-scale producers across England and Wales. Our livelihoods are wholly dependent upon resilient local food economies and cultures, as opposed to export or commodity production. As a result our views are rarely represented by established producer boards and lobbyists such as the NFU.
We have a number of concerns about the impact on producers of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We would like to register these concerns and to ask Lord Green to represent these views at the forthcoming meeting of trade ministers in Washington during the week of the 8th July 2013.
Firstly; with specific respect to “agricultural produce” the TTIP demands that the EU relax its food safety import standards and allow US standards to be considered “equivalent” for the import of food products. In the past the US has consistently targeted EU food safety standards which have restricted the import of specific agricultural products – most notably those which have been genetically modified or subject to antibiotics or growth hormones banned within the EU.
We believe that the EU’s united opposition to imports of genetically modified foods, as well as those containing unsafe prophylactics, sends a clear message to the world that European consumers do not support these industrial food and farming systems. We support the EU’s defence of the right to use the “precautionary principle” when considering the import of agricultural produce and strongly oppose any compromise on this issue.
Secondly; we oppose demands included within the TTIP to cap EU import tariffs for specific agricultural products, particularly cereals and beef. Our existing import tariffs currently protect European farmers from having to compete directly with US producers. Without these tariffs our farmers would be forced to adopt ever more intensive production methods in order to compete – even if that produce was to be sold within our own countries, regions or communities.
We believe that in a globalised food economy these import tariffs are essential in order to protect our traditional European farm produce and cultures from further erosion through US imports. We defend our right as small farmers to a livelihood that can be supported by consumers who are willing to pay the true cost of production of their food. Any concessions on import tariffs for agricultural produce will severely undermine this right and result in unfair competition across local, as well as regional and national markets.
Thirdly; we oppose in the strongest possible terms proposals included under the TTIP that would allow privately owned US corporations to challenge European laws that may be considered to constitute barriers to trade. This caveat reflects a wider debate currently being considered within the WTO. We believe that any concessions on this issue within the TTIP would set a dangerous precedent for future disputes considered by the WTO.
As producers we value the environmental resources; soil, water and ecosystem services, that are the foundation of our farming systems. We also value the legislation, imposed by the European Commission, that protects our ecosystems and maintains the quality of our soils and water. Any attempt to compromise this legislation automatically compromises the resilience of our farming systems and cannot be justified by the interests of foreign, or domestic, private companies.
Fourthly; we are farmers, growers and landworkers. The proposed TTIP will not only have a profound impact on small-scale producers across England, Wales and the rest of Europe, it will also have a profound impact upon the livelihoods of small-scale producers throughout the US. As members of La Via Campesina we recognise and support the rights of communities everywhere to food sovereignty and as such we oppose the demands made by the European Commission within the TTIP for greater access to U.S. agriculture markets.
Finally; we are educated citizens who have elected our MP’s and MEP’s to represent our views at the highest level. We do not appreciate the fact that multi-lateral trade agreements like the TTIP are not subjected to public consultation, instead they are negotiated behind closed doors with no protocol for publicising draft texts and agreements. We believe this process is wholly undemocratic and undermines the integrity of those governments who seek to make an example of their democracy.
It is indeed regrettable that the livelihoods of small farmers like ourselves are dependent upon the whims and wishes of international trade agreements. But until a time when governments recognise and support the role of small farmers in feeding and contributing to the economy and culture of their own countries, the syntax of these trade and investment agreements is where we must draw our battle lines.”
Signed on behalf of The Land Workers’ Alliance of England & Wales.
Featured image by Helena Eriksson
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