Food quality and farmers’ incomes under threat from new trade treaties

Dora Clouttick caught up with Tracy Worcester, acclaimed film maker and activist behind the bold new campaign group Farms Not Factories 

Forked: What are the biggest food challenges currently facing us (UK or globally)?

Tracy Worcester: The biggest food challenge currently facing us are the new free trade treaties that will dismantle most of the rules that have been fought for in an attempt to protect food quality, farmers’ incomes and our beleaguered animals. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) are negotiated in secret and designed by giant organizations to ‘harmonise’ rules to facilitate ‘free and fair’ access to markets ie unhindered by regulations. If a business deems a rule ‘unscientific’, like using the precautionary principal to ban a product or give information through product labelling, corporations can sue using a ‘state dispute settlement mechanism (isds)’ via an independent arbitration court that can either get the rule changed that they deem is a barrier to trade or fine a government for undermining present or future corporate profits.

Cases like Syngenta taking the EU government to court for banning neonicotinoids will increase exponentially and have a chilling effect on governments deterring them from introducing new legislation. How can regulations be ‘harmonised’ when the standards between nations and regional blocks are so different? For example in the area of chemicals, in the EU it is up to producers to prove that their product isn’t hazardous whereas in the US it is risk based, i.e the onus is on the regulatory authorities to prove that there is a scientific risk. As a consequence, in the EU there are 1,200 substances that are deemed hazardous and should not be used in cosmetics and in the US there are none.

Forked: Is enough being done to address these issues/problems? If not, what needs doing?

TW: Our politicians should each be sent pillows to signify that they are sleeping while their powers and responsibilities are being systematically dismantled by these trade treaties. The so called ‘trickle-down effect’ has been proved to be a myth, so it is time we sued our politicians for putting the profits of big business before the health and wellbeing of the electorate. By paying for elections through the public purse, we could ensure that we are the paymasters of our politicians not big business. Through funding information about the true cost of ‘cheap’ products, we could initiate a grass roots revolution whereby informed consumers simply refuse to buy products that don’t follow the rules of the kind of world we want to leave to our grandchildren.

Forked: What are you currently working on?

In response to many consumers saying that they would like to buy high welfare pork, but it is more expensive and it won’t make any difference if they act alone, I launched ‘The Pig Ask’, a global consumer- focused campaign aimed at shifting buying habits away from factory farmed pork – for good.

Forked: Who, in the food sphere, have you recently found inspiring?

The UN, even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, a report published by the United Nations is once again sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system. That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It Is Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world. The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.

Forked: Can you give me three words to sum up/describe the current food system?

TW: Nutritionally Deficient Frankenfoods.

For more information see Farms Not Factories


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