Americans are under the false assumption they control US laws through their duly elected officials. This is especially true when it comes to food safety. This used to be the case but in the last decade the balance of power shifted sharply in favor of corporate control of rule making. Corporations have always had a disproportionate amount of power because of money for campaign donations and lobbying. But in 1995 they made a giant leap forward in consolidating their position with the ratification of the World Trade Organization (WTO). A VP of Cargill, drafted the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) with the agenda of promoting trade at the expense of food safety.
The AoA SPS Agreement “Aims to ensure that governments do not use quarantine and food safety requirements as Unjustified trade barriers:” This statement shows the primary goal is opening borders to facilitate trade and NOT to promote food safety.
The WTO contain several separate agreements, Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) introduced patenting of plants, animals and seeds. This allows international corporations to patent genetics stolen from farmers. The crucial agreements for food safety are the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) These Agreements designate Codex Alimentarius as a key source of recognized international food standards. WTO considers Codex the international authority for the resolution of disputes. Trade Sanctions can and will be used to enforce compliance. Since World Trade Organization rules apply to over 90 percent of international trade, Trade Sanctions have a lot of bite.
As the WTO matures and its approved international regulatory organizations produce a steady stream of “International Guidelines” WTO intrudes more and more in the internal law of countries compeling them to “harmonize” with the international guidelines. Guidelines with the primary goal of making money for international corporations.
“Under the WTO, member countries have the right to challenge other countries’ local, state, or federal laws as impediments to international trade. If the WTO finds the law to be WTO-illegal, the federal government may overturn the law or face potential trade sanctions. This shift in power to a global-level bureaucracy undermines a cornerstone of democracy—the practice of citizens working with public officials to develop laws that protect the public welfare.” <a href="http://www.fpif.org/briefs/vol2/v2n14wto.html">click</a>
For those who wonder if international guidelines are a problem, let us take a closer look at Codex Alimentarius. Codex’s mandate includes ensuring fair international trade in food and protecting the health of consumers. These two competing objectives are sharply different from that of the USDA and the FDA, whose sole mandate was to protect public health. Codex is not subject to a standard requiring it to apply precautionary principles to ensure public health is sufficiently protected. “To justify a ban, a country has to go up against the scientific might of the world’s best industry experts and prove, scientifically, that there is a danger.” The precautionary principle “first, do no harm” no longer applies.
“The WTO Panel found the EC Directives banning meat from hormones-treated cattle did not comply with the SPS Agreement’s Article 5 requirement that food safety measures be based on a risk assessment, because there was not sufficient evidence that the EC actually took into account a risk assessment when it enacted its sanitary measure.” <a href="http://www.fdli.org/pubs/Journal%20Online/jour_toc/vol53_3.html#art10">click</a>
But an opposite situation holds true with vitamins and food supplements The proposed guidelines promoted dosage restrictions in line with the recommended minimum dietary allowance, as the top of the range despite the abundant evidence that higher doses are not harmful and may actually be required to prevent Vitamin Deficiency Diseases.
“Codex itself is profoundly undemocratic. It is able to bypass national parliaments completely and it can choose to ignore or override input from national delegations. An apparency of democratic process is maintained by allowing non governmental organizations (NGOs) to attend meetings and at times to speak, but their voice is powerless. NGOs don’t vote and their views are not taken into account when deciding on consensus... Codex Alimentarius is an industry-sponsored international legislative forum that promotes corporate interests in a globalized market, rather than consumer health and fair trade. <a href="http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/sepp/2008/08/12/codex_alimentarius_globalizing_food_and_health.htm">click</a>
Codex’s voting rules are not conducive to food safety. The standards are adopted by means of one country one vote with the vast majority comprised of votes from developing countries. Countries are not barred from voting on the passage of standards that would promote their respective economic interests at the expense of public health protection.
Codex’s standard-setting procedures include the Commission’s adoption of certain standards in closed sessions. There is a marked under-representation of consumer and environmental organizations, but industry groups have been closely involved in the Codex standard-setting process for a long time. This imbalance of power is reflected in the composition of member-states’ delegations. Many include industry advisors, but only 3 out of the 165 member states (the United States, Germany, and Norway) include consumer representatives.
Another problem is WTO mandated “scientific” and “risk based” guidelines. These guidelines are based on corporate or corporate sponsored research. Since industry now funds most university research any unfavorable research is likely to be suppressed. Therefore Codex can say genetically modified foods and certain chemical additives are OK and should not be subject to restriction or labeling, while vitamins and food supplements must have strict guidelines limiting dosage.
In the House and Senate there are now WTO/Corporate sponsored bills that will eliminate competition and shift liability from corporate production facilities to local farmers. Corporation lawyers are already drawing up contracts placing all blame for food safety problems squarely on the farmer. There are even seminars being given on “limiting risk and safe guarding stockholder assets in the event of recalls” so everyone in industry uses the same type of contract to shift liability to farmers.
Where is the USA today? The WORLD TRADE REPORT 2005 C sums it up best. The USDA and FDA are busy restructuring “the safest food system in the world” to comply with food standards acceptable to Ag Corporations who wanting to make money exporting food of dubious quality from third world nations and cheap tax supported grain from first world countries.
The overview suggests that the standards development process organized by national, regional and international standards institutions is progressively evolving. The role of international bodies has gained prominence. The national standardization infrastructures of most industrialized countries are now integrated into the network of international standardization. In Europe, for instance, adoption of European standards is mandatory for national member bodies and European standards organizations transpose the international standards into European standards. The World Trade Organization: WORLD TRADE REPORT 2005 C pg 114 thru117
In 2007bush signed an agreement with the EU “...to push ahead with regulatory convergence in nearly 40 areas...” So, Who's really in charge here?