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Food safety: Time to rethink control by the WTO

For over a decade, governments forced to overturn public-interest laws or face trade sanctions.

by Gail Combs, Op Ed News

March 9, 2009 — 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 the 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," the WTO intrudes more and more in the internal law of countries, compelling them to "harmonize" with the international guidelines. Guidelines with the primary goal of making money for international corporations.

(From: Foreign Policy in Focus, January 1997) "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."

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. . .

To read further, please click on the link below. . .

Links and sources
  Food Safety: Who's really in charge here?, by Gail Combs, OpEdNews, March 9 2009

Posted: March 11, 2009

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