Trade Deals Threaten Food Safety, Public Health, and the American Way


The United States is participating in two trade agreements that should be a cause of concern among American consumers but instead is barely acknowledged in the media this summer. These agreements threaten to undermine our domestic laws and increase the opportunity for corporate takeovers of public resources. What’s worse is these negotiations are taking place behind closed doors.

One of these controversial trade agreements is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — comprised of 11 nations and the United States bordering the Pacific Rim. The TPP would lead to increases in liquefied natural gas exports and food imports, and there are real dangers posed by recklessly fracking for natural gas and increasing food imports with several countries in the Pacific Rim who’s food safety standards fall far short of our own.

The ultimate flaw with the TPP is that it could possibly be the biggest corporate power grab in the history of the United States. TPP deals would establish a regime under which corporations are given equal status to countries, allowing them to take legal action against governments both at the national and local levels. With this power, multinational corporations — especially energy companies — could overturn laws enacted to protect the public and the environment if they deem that those protections violate the profit-based terms of this trade agreement.

The United States currently has enough challenges plaguing our food system, with many of our would-be TPP partners shipping unsafe food even without these free trade agreements. Seafood imports alone have been particularly troubling, considering that much of what we receive is raised using antibiotics and hormones that are illegal in the US, while a mere 2% of those imports are actually inspected. The TPP would encourage increasing the amount of seafood we take in without requiring the trading partners to ban the use of illegal chemicals.

Another way this could hurt American consumers is through the expansion of the oil and gas industry as they look to increase their land use in the US in order to frack more gas for export to our new TPP partners. The TPP free trade agreement could quickly undermine local, state and even federal laws that protect public health and the environment. Many localities have recently passed laws to ban fracking. Unfortunately, a lot of the companies that are pursuing hydraulic fracturing in the US are either foreign-owned or have foreign investors.

The TPP would potentially give companies the power to sue local governments, granting them their own permission to exploit natural resources and undermine local laws.

Trade treaties like TPP undermine the efforts to protect people and the environment against the dangers of infecting our food system with increased use of antibiotics and hormones or the risks associated with fracking for natural gas.

Protests against TPP have already taken place in countries including Japan and Malaysia as concerns grow over the negative effects of the free trade agreement. The bottom line is that TPP will bring little, if any, benefits to small-scale growers and producers.

As negotiations for TPP near completion, it’s critical that we let our members of Congress know that we do not support corporate power grabs such as the TPP. President Obama is asking Congress to grant fast-track authority, allowing him to negotiate these agreements away from any Congressional oversight. We must not allow this to happen. Undermining laws that US citizens voted to put in place, is not the American way.

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch (

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2013

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