As the year draws to a close, I’m thankful for the opportunity that my new book Foodopoly has given me to meet so many Americans committed to reclaiming our democracy and to fixing our dysfunctional food system.
But there is a fight brewing that could undermine all of our efforts. In 2014, it will be essential to win it.
Remember when the federal government shut down at the beginning of October? While much of our official government business was stalled, the US Trade Representative was busy undertaking ongoing and secret negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an emerging multinational trade agreement between the United States and eleven Pacific Rim nations. With corporate interests in the driver’s seat, the agreement utilizes a back-door approach to removing important protections for citizens, while avoiding the messy process of passing new laws, all in the interest of profits. If approved, the TPP could harm our efforts to ban fracking, label genetically engineered foods and have a robust food safety system.
The TPP and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which includes the European Union’s 27 nations, both threaten basic food safety protocol by undermining current regulations and lowering the standards for food safety protections. The agreements have corporate interests in mind and will push to allow fracking on public and private land, infringing upon laws that would normally protect nearby communities and the environment. Both agreements also undermine efforts to develop local food systems and increase the overzealous pursuit of privatizing our public water systems.
Even though proponents discuss the TPP and TAFTA as if they are “trade” deals, it would be more accurate to describe them as a dynamic power grab by corporations and their financiers. If the United States Congress does not intervene, these deals would allow our current, broken economic system to continue by undermining our efforts to make positive changes that would bridge the major gaps in the distribution of income and wealth in this country.
These deals would allow companies in foreign nations to dictate American policies, going so far as to permit them to sue local, state and even federal governments over any law or policy found to be in violation of trading interests, even if those laws are in place to protect citizens from unsafe food, dirty water, and the dangers associated with fracking for shale gas.
Up until recently, no members of Congress were privy to the language contained in these agreements and, even now, most of them have been shut out of the negotiations, while representatives of more than 600 corporations are playing a major role in drafting them. And it’s certainly safe to say that most Americans are unaware of the implications of the TPP and TAFTA and how much they will affect our future.
We cannot stand by and allow these trade deals to dictate our standard of living. We need to stop this corporate power grab and protect our public resources from the multinational interests who want to profit from them without regard for the ramifications.
Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch (foodandwaterwatch.org) and author of Foodopoly: The Future of Food and Farming in America (Foodopoly.org).
From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2013
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