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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