We, the undersigned food lovers, farmers, retailers, and food organizations, ask you to vote no on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. This agreement promotes the interests of large corporations, while ignoring the interests of farmers, food safety, and our democracy.
Our concerns with the TPP include the following:
CLOSED DOOR NEGOTIATIONS: The closed-door TPP negotiations were dominated by representatives of large agricultural interests such as Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta and Walmart. A trade deal that excludes the interests of small farmers and food safety representatives should be rejected.
THREAT TO FOOD LABELING: The TPP’s provisions on “technical barriers to trade” threaten food labeling systems such as GMO and country of origin. Already, Country of Origin Labeling for meat has been successfully challenged in the WTO. The TPP also includes a “necessity test” stating that labeling requirements “should be limited as far as possible to what is essential and to what is the least trade restrictive to achieve the legitimate objective pursued.” Highly subjective wording like “essential” opens the door to challenges to nearly all food labeling.
THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY: The TPP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS) will allow foreign corporations to challenge a variety of food related US laws in foreign trade tribunals. These tribunals have no accountability and no appeal system, and are not required to follow US law. It was this same ISDS system that allowed Phillip Morris to challenge Australia’s cigarette labeling law in an ISDS tribunal, and that allowed Cargill to successfully challenge Mexico’s high fructose corn syrup regulations. The tribunal awarded Cargill $77.3 million.
- The TPP’s Rapid Response Mechanism allows importers of food to challenge the food safety decisions of our border inspectors -- which would add to pressure on inspectors to admit food that violates essential food safety standards.
- The TPP also threatens the safety of our seafood imports. According to Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA currently inspects less than 1% of all seafood imports for health hazards. Indeed, a 2012 GAO report stated that imported seafood has been subjected to “limited US oversight by FDA.” Nonetheless, according to a University of Arkansas study from 2013, 100% of Vietnamese catfish farms used antibiotics not approved in the US. Increasing imports from TPP countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, would overwhelm FDA inspectors’ limited ability to ensure the safety of our food.
- The TPP’s equivalence rule will create pressure on the US to treat TPP countries’ food safety standards as equivalent to our own. Congresswoman Delauro has highlighted these safety concerns in a 2011 letter to the US Trade Representative.
THREAT TO FOOD ETHICS: Malaysia, a country with a deeply flawed record in human trafficking, was wrongfully included in the TPP. Similarly disturbing is the fact that the TPP will allow large agricultural producers to invest in countries where worker safety and organizing rights are minimal. These deficiencies in the TPP will make it difficult for families to make ethical choices about the source of their food.
THREAT TO FARM-TO-SCHOOL PROGRAMS: Farm-to-school procurement programs prioritize purchases from local farms for school lunch programs, allowing school children to eat nutritious, locally grown food. Although federal farm to school programs are protected from challenge under the TPP as now written, Article 15.24 of the TPP leaves room for further negotiations to expand the scope of procurement programs that can be challenged as trade barriers.
THREAT TO OUR CLIMATE: Industrial agriculture, measured accurately, contributes to at least one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. And yet, while small-holder ecological farming could be a climate solution, the TPP promotes large-scale agriculture, and ignores climate change altogether. Until trade policy matches with climate policy, we will be unable to take the necessary steps to save our planet.
For these reasons, we urge you to stand up for our democracy, our farmers, and food safety, and vote no on the Trans Pacific Partnership.