(NaturalNews) A draft chapter of the United States-European Union trade agreement that was leaked recently by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) shows that public health and food safety might be at risk, or so says an accompanying analysis of the document.
According to the Cornucopia Institute (CI), a group promoting economic justice for family farmers, the leaked chapter deals with "Sanitary and Phytosanitary" (SPS) issues, or those that deal with food safety and animal and plant health, in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, that is currently under negotiation.
Only TTIP negotiators and those whose security has been cleared by officials -- most of them corporate representatives -- are permitted access to the draft negotiating texts and can comment on them, the CI said.
According to the IATP analysis, "Trade agreements have a profound influence on how regulations to protect public health and how we produce food are developed, implemented and enforced or not enforced. U.S. and EU food safety regulations in the US and the EU often set the bar for such standards around the world," making them extremely important.
"This leaked draft TTIP chapter doesn't tell us everything about where negotiations are headed on food safety, but it tells us enough to raise serious concerns," the analysis said.
'Food contamination outbreaks harder to trace'
Though key details have yet to be disclosed to the public or otherwise remain to be hashed out among the parties, the leaked chapter "clearly indicates negotiators continue to subordinate SPS regulations to the object of maximizing trade," the Cornucopia Institute said. The text of the chapter, for example, supports the American approach to not require port of entry food inspections and testing, "meaning food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess--a win for U.S. meat and food companies that could jeopardize food safety for consumers."
In addition, the leaked chapter text purports to indicate that the trade pact could make it harder to restrict imports from countries with animal or plant diseases, like mad cow disease or outbreaks of plant fungi.
The chapter does acknowledge animal welfare, but it does not contain much enforceable language, which means that a U.S. state or EU member nation could pass mandatory rules or laws on the welfare of agriculture animals, but those mandatory provisions could not then be used to prevent the import of products from animals that have been abused.
Alternatively, trade policy that is not enforceable could further the misguided "Right to Farm" legislation that is currently being considered by a number of states, the Cornicopia Institute said.
So much is left unclear
"While many key details regarding things like GMOs are still hidden, it's clear public health is losing out to corporate interests in a big way," said IATP's Dr. Steve Suppan, author of the analysis.
"Moreover, it's an affront to democracy that the public need rely on leaked documents to find out how these agreements could affect health and safety," he wrote, adding there could be a "paradigm change" on some issues like "plant health."
According to the draft chapter, there would be the creation of a Joint Management Committee to discuss concerns about the U.S. and EU SPS regulations, but it provides very little information, nonetheless, about how this committee -- or the yet-to-be negotiated TTIP Oversight Body, to which the committee would report -- would function, if talks do not resolve concerns about the effect of regulations on trade.
Also, notes the Cornucopia Institute:
It is not clear whether the Oversight Body would refer unresolved SPS concerns to the proposed and very controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism. The ISDS would have a private tribunal of trade lawyers, not a public court of law, decide whether U.S. or EU SPS rules, laws or enforcement measures violated TTIP.
If the tribunal made a decision in favor of a complaining investor, the body would then determine the compensation that the EU member nation or U.S. state or federal government would pay investors for any loss of anticipated benefits under TTIP.