Trans Pacific Partnership Might Include International Ban On GMO Labeling

Monsanto stands to win big from the latest free-trade deal currently being negotiated.
By @TrishaMarczakMP |
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    A man protesting against agricultural corporation Monsanto. (Photo/John Novotny via Flickr)

    A man protesting against agricultural corporation Monsanto. (Photo/John Novotny via Flickr)

    A burgeoning global trade agreement with nations such as Japan, Vietnam and Australia is leaving GMO-labeling advocates concerned that it could result in a ban on GMO labeling not only in the U.S., but in all countries taking part in negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

    Negotiations for the TPP have been occurring over the last few years, although under a veil of secrecy that left even America’s lawmakers out of the process. Leaked documents have revealed some specifics, leaving consumer watchdog groups suspicious over a process intended to streamline labor policies and food labeling guidelines that would align the U.S. with partnering countries..

    Individuals connected to some of the nation’s largest corporate interests have been involved in the process, including former Monsanto lobbyist Islam Siddiqui, who is the head agricultural negotiator for the TPP on behalf of the U.S. Prior to his work as a GMO lobbyist with CropLife, he worked as the head agricultural trade advisor for the Clinton administration.

    Countries involved in the TPP include the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

    Countries like Japan, where GMO labeling is required, could find themselves in a global partnership intended to eliminate barriers for trade — and separate labeling for Japanese consumers would be out of the question, according to NationofChange, a nonprofit news and advocacy organization.

    “The labeling of foods containing GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) will not be allowed,” writes Barbara Chicherio in a NationofChange op-ed. “Japan currently has labeling laws for GMOs in food. Under the TPP Japan would no longer be able to label GMOs. This situation is the same for New Zealand and Australia. In the US we are just beginning to see some progress towards labeling GMOs. Under the TPP GMO labels for US food would not be allowed.”

    Vietnam is another nation that has been wary to latch on to Monsanto’s growing global influence. As a nation that was devastated by Monsanto-produced, U.S.-military-delivered Agent Orange — which killed or injured an estimated 400,000 and caused another 500,000 instances of birth defects during and after the Vietnam War —  it’s seen as a touchy subject. If TPP goes through, laws could override such concerns.

    The nations involved in the TPP represent 30 percent of the globe’s agricultural industry, which would create a steady market for Monsanto as it seeks to maintain its position as the leading seed producer in the world, particularly at a time of growing resistance to the company and GMOs in general.

    European nations have already taken a stand against Monsanto, with eight countries banning the use of GMO seeds, citing health concerns and cases in which agricultural workers have been poisoned by the large quantity of pesticides GMO plants are designed to absorb.

    Paul Francois, a 47-year-old French man who suffered neurological disorders after exposure to Monsanto chemicals, sued the company — and won.

    “It is a historic decision insofar as it is the first time that a pesticide maker is found guilty of such a poisoning,” Francois’ lawyer told Reuters.

    It’s cases like this that have rallied support within countries where much of the public opposes GMOs — and it’s cases like this that are leading Monsanto to hold on to trade agreements that could give them an edge up in the global market.

    The TPP negotiations are expected to wrap up at some point within 2013.

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