TTIP and CETA: Opening the door to genetic engineering in agriculture and food production

Testbiotech publishes a report on behalf of the Green Party in the German Parliament

12 January 2015. A newly published Testbiotech report shows that the introduction of the new free trade agreements between EU and Canada (CETA) and the US (TTIP) will almost certainly lead to lower EU standards in protection of consumers and the environment. Contrary to some public statements that have been made, both the German government and the EU Commission are aware of these consequences. The Testbiotech report was commissioned by the Green group in the German Parliament.

The report makes it clear that even though the negotiations are not completed it is already more or less impossible to put new labelling regulations into place as announced in the coalition treaty of the German government. In fact, starting the negotiations on the free trade agreements has created a legally binding situation preventing the EU from taking legal initiatives to expand labelling in the area of biotechnology.

Whilst on the one hand the EU Commission has, to some extent, been trying to defend its standards in the market authorisation and labelling of genetically engineered plants within a former World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement, the free trade agreement is bringing about a major change. The EU now wants to introduce legally binding mechanisms to harmonise its standards with US and Canada. As a result, genetically engineered organisms could be commercialised and released in the EU without risk assessment and labelling.

Basic elements of the EU regulatory framework such as the precautionary principle, protection of agriculture from contamination with genetically engineered organisms and enabling consumer choice are not even mentioned in the text of CETA, and are therefore neither a starting point nor a goal. Instead, the treaty is mostly designed to serve the interests of biotech-industry.

According to CETA, a number of new committees will be created, most of them are unlikely to meet in public. These new committees will form a kind of “shadow government” with the intention of continuously checking that existing and future regulations are in accordance with the free trade agreement. Concerns about these institutions are being raised in a very similar way to the controversially disputed mechanisms for Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). In effect, power from democratically legitimated institutions will be transferred to the new expert committees, which will function like ‘acts of God’. Political decision-making forced into this kind of framework will simply be there to serve the goals of freed trade and the interests of the biotech industry without offering any alternatives.

Testbiotech recommends that the ongoing negotiations are stopped. At the very minimum, legal standards for the protection of consumers and the environment in the area of agriculture and food production should be exempted from the agreement completely.

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