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Trump pressed by US agribusiness to force UK to lower food standards after Brexit

American agribusiness is demanding that US trade negotiators push the UK into scrapping regulations on pesticides, genetically-modified crops, chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-grown meat, according to a report from Unearthed.

The White House. Photo credit: Pexels

The White House. Photo credit: Pexels

The interests of large agribusinesses have dominated a US consultation on objectives for US trade with the UK post-Brexit. Nearly a quarter of the total consultation submissions received from stakeholders in the US came from the powerful food and agriculture lobby.

According to Unearthed, agri-industry giant Cargill responded to the consultation by saying that the US “should seek complete agricultural market access for its firms” and “eliminate intended or unintended non-tariff barriers in the agriculture sector.” A story in the I newspaper reported that another powerful lobby group, the American Farm Bureau Federation, stated that “full recognition of the safety of the US agricultural and food system must be included [in a trade deal]”.

If this were accepted by the UK, it would lead to imports of chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated beef, ractopamine pork and genetically modified potatoes, and fruit and vegetables grown with a range of questionable pesticides, all of which are currently banned for sale in the EU – and hence also the UK – on environmental and safety grounds. The US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has already made it clear to the UK that the US will demand the elimination of  ‘non tariff’ barriers to trade in exchange for trade.

This could pave the way for weakening of UK rules on things like the use of genetically modified crops, the overuse of human-critical antibiotics in farming and pesticide residues in food. The report also warned that if the US secured ‘mutual recognition’ of safety and environmental standards for vehicles, American-made cars emitting higher levels of CO2 could be introduced to UK streets.

The US industry demands were made in responses to a consultation into a post-Brexit trade deal. The UK is also consulting, and Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox briefed MPs last month that the US trade deal consultation had garnered the largest amount of responses to a government consultation ever (600,000), with the main issue of concern for UK respondents being food standards. 

Kath Dalmeny, CEO of Sustain said: “According to Liam Fox last month, the main issue on the minds of UK people, when consulted about future trade deals with the US, was food. The UK people have already made it clear in polls: they will not lower their food standards in exchange for a trade deal with the US.

“And these reports show why. American production methods cut corners to cut costs and cheap food is not necessarily good food.UK consumers do not want chlorinated chicken, hormone treated beef and ractopamine-laced pork in their food chain. The US says these products are safe, and yet our analysis shows that food poisoning rates in the US are ten times higher than here.

“Worryingly, these reports also indicate that the US would like to sell us CO2 emitting cars, and relax environmental standards on use of pesticides. That is why we need total transparency in any future trade discussions, with public health a top consideration.”

The US consultation closed last week and President Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has already made it clear than any future agreement with London will stand or fall on Britain accepting the removal of EU food safety rules. Meanwhile in the UK, the House of Lords voted this week to press the Government to introduce UK trade policy only after it has been agreed following a proper democratic process that addresses public concerns.

Unearthed is Greenpeace UK’s journalism project which is funded by Greenpeace supporters.

Published Monday 21 January 2019

Good Food Trade Campaign: Campaigning for good trade that benefits people and the planet at home and overseas.

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