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Secret trade deal may hurt Small Farmers and GMO free Food

Written by Charlie Parke on Friday, 30 August 2013. Posted in GMO Foods

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) seeks to bring together many of the worlds biggest food producers.   Countries involved equal about 1/3 of the worlds agricultural food exports.    Activist Robin Sunbeam describes the deal as "The highly secretive draft is being kept from the eyes of Congress and the public; yet hundreds of corporate advisers are privy to its text. The goal seems to be to streamline regulations to favor corporate profits at the expense of the general public."

Small farmers, Organic/GMO free food advocates are worried about protections favoring large multinational corporations like Monsanto that patent  GMO seeds,  herbicides and have sued many family farms.

Countries involved are US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Viet Nam.  Japan seems to have recently joined as a possible partner.    The US made the chief negotiator for agriculture a former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique.   Those concerned about the TPP point to similar trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA destroyed small farmers and small businesses such as the the US textile industry.   

Shortly after the passage of NAFTA came the explosion of Factory Farming in the US at the expense of many small US farms and 1.5 million Mexican farmers going bankrupt  due to competition with the highly subsidized US corn market.   Before NAFTA Mexico producing almost all of its corn naturally, now they import at least half and paying higher prices to get for Monsanto’s GMO corn.    

Margaret with the Flush the TPP  campaign,  commented that “The reason that getting rid of the TPP is important to us is that if it passes, it grants greater power to corporations and so, will make all of our work for peace and economic, environmental and social justice more difficult. The TPP unites our struggles and is a campaign that we can win! And following that win, we can continue to build a broad movement that shifts power to the people so that the needs of people and the planet are more important than corporate profits.”

Several regulations reported to be in the TPP seem to give advantage to large multinationals.  The TPP is reported to have regulations for large producers to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.  This seems to skip domestic courts, city councils, state legislatures, and even congresses ability to set regulations on food or environmental safety when those policies limit profit-or at least demand financial compensation when doing so.  Another reported regulation forbids discrimination based on type of production which seems to indicate programs favoring organic/GMO free crops would be prohibited.

Many watching the deal develop feel the labeling of food containing GMO’s would be prohibited.  This would overrule recent state laws passed in the USA, Japan, New Zealand and Australia’s labeling laws.  If the deal passes US Consumers seeking organic GMO free options would likely have to import all their food from Europe and Russia.  Buy American provisions of state/federal laws appear to be prohibited by the TPP as well.  These two measures threaten America’s small farmers who often sell organic/gmo free food locally at farmers markets.  Without buy America food requirements multinationals would likely be able to undercut local farmers prices and without labeling-GMO crops patented by large companies like Monsanto are likely to benefit.   

Community Activists have launched a Flush The TPP campaign to inform the public and create a community action plan to stop the TPP. Beginning with 1999’s World Trade Organization protest in Seattle citizens have often been successful at stopping or slowing proposed trade agreements. If successful the campaign seeks to make sure members of congress are notified the public doesn’t support the TPP’s secretive pro-big business deal.   However President Obama is trying to gain “Trade Promotion Authority,” which would allow him to sign agreements like the TPP before obtaining congressional approval, overriding the the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution which gives Congress responsibility for trade agreements. To engage public attention the campaign seeks to launch #TPPTuesdays to educate the public thru drawing attention to the TPP.   Richard Smith with Veterans for Peace Phoenix Chapter noted concern over the methods involved in  passing the trade deal “Do things in secret, and then enact the legislation on an unaware and unsuspecting public.  This is a another  example that refutes the Republican its discredited “free market” no regulation mantra. In this regard, we need look no further than Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” to demonstrate the failure of the free market and the necessity of Federal Regulation of every aspect of capitalism.”

Small producers often point to the need for Fair Trade as opposed to Free trade agreements like NAFTA and the TPP.   Free Trade often seems to benefit those buying and selling goods while Fair trade aims to help the producers of the goods themselves.   Common items sold thru Fairtrade models include  handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fruit and chocolate.  Those involved with Fairtrade practices are often small farmers, craftsmen and businesses as opposed to the large corporations supporting the TPP. Activist Catin Thehaight said “this agreement would reach into every corner of the lives of all humanity! The TPP is the strongest yet attempt of international Capital to forever silence, control & enslave the worldwide Working Class. “

Several members of Congress have asked the United States Trade Representatives (USTR) to release the draft that is under construction to the public, but to no avail.  The next step is up to the public whether to join the call demanding to see the trade agreement that may affect every aspect of food production in the Pacific area and/or demanding congress have the final say in whether to sign the TPP.

About the Author

Charlie Parke

Charlie Parke

Charlie Parke is a activist and writer from Phoenix AZ. Charlie studied history and political science at the Arizona State University. He usually runs articles in the AZcommunitypress or the Modern Times Magazine.

Comments (1)

  • Jeff Heaton

    Jeff Heaton

    04 November 2013 at 20:59 |
    It makes me angry that a TPP agreement could actually keep states, cities and counties from enacting laws that require government contractors to buy American made goods and use American contractors to build bridges and other needed infrastructure improvements.
    Hiring a Chinese company to manufacture the steel parts for the Oakland Bay Bridge in California was a disaster. The bridge is over budget, took several years longer than it was suppose to take and was installed with defective parts that are too expensive to fix.
    If California had a State Bank it could have borrowed the money to build the bridge interest free. And if the state had hired local contractors and used US steel companies the total savings would have been in the billions of dollars.
    Thank you Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. We are glad you decided to go back to being an actor. At least Governor Brown signed a bill to legalize growing hemp in California. Beyond that he hasn't been much better.
    We need more direct democracy.


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