Over the past two years I have been investigating processed food for my forthcoming book, and what I have found has made me very glad to live in the UK and Europe, not in the US.
American food is qualitatively worse than the European equivalent in several important respects. Here in Europe, for instance, we don’t have GM ingredients forced down our throats, unlabelled. Our dairy cows can’t be treated with growth hormones. Our most intensive beef production system is animal welfare heaven compared to those sordid, Farmageddon-like North American feedlots. Our chicken meat isn’t washed in chlorine, or irradiated. Well, at least, not yet.
But if the EU signs up to the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), we will be left commiserating on the sidelines as progressive, hard-fought (if still inadequate) regulations that protect the safety and wholesomeness of our food are swept away in a reactionary free trade tide.
Few citizens understand the TTIP - only its potentially catastrophic consequences as a facilitator of NHS privatisation have attracted attention. But its implications for food are every bit as chilling. If the EU signs up to it, we hand over control of our food chain to global corporations that care only for profit. Key standards that protect human Health and food integrity will be construed as barriers to trade.
”If the EU signs up to the TTIP, we hand over control of our food chain”
If the TTIP were to frame our food system, we in the UK could see the lifting of the present requirement for GM ingredients to be labelled. We could kiss goodbye to wise restrictions on additives, and see pesticide residue limits raised. Technologies under the heading of ‘chemical pathogen reduction’ could be legally presented as true freshness. In short, the ‘precautionary principle’ that governs food safety standards would be trumped by corporate self-interest.
Europe is not perfect: the chemical, agribiz and biotech industries lobby ceaselessly in Brussels, but in the current regime, regulators must at least take account of other agendas and overarching policies. But if the TTIP is imposed, it will facilitate a series of major corporate challenges. Net result? A bumper crop for Big Food.
Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of What to Eat