TTIP and Ireland’s food reputation

Europe at the best of times is confusing to people. Most of us don’t know what the difference between the European Commission and the European Parliament is. And let’s face it, most of us don’t care. In Ireland, Europe is more or less a gravy train for politicians who need to be ‘retired’ to distant shores or as a means of a ‘thank you’ from the current team.

The big European plan for integration is about to wield its power over the food and drinks industry. Dressed up in the guise of the The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and being sold to people as a magnificent piece of ‘free trade’ between America and Europe, the treaty has far reaching implications for Ireland’s reputation for food and drink.

Just don’t ask to cast to your vote on it. Because you can’t. Europe is going to decide this one for you because you are far too stupid to understand it.

So what does Free Trade mean? To you and me, it might mean I can sell my products in America so long as they meet the standards there. There would be no special taxes or import levies applied to them.

But that’s not what Free Trade means under TTIP. You see, TTIP has nothing at all to do with Free Trade and everything to do with Free Profits. This is a treaty driven by Big Business, implemented by bought politicians.

Under the treaty, standards across Europe and America will be harmonised. Which means two things. Either America (And we love America) raises it’s food standards to that of Ireland’s or Ireland drop it’s food standard to that of America. It really is that simple.

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What TTIP will mean for Ireland

Which sounds innocent enough until you learn how food is processed by Big Business in America. There is a large industry gap in methodology between the approach to safe food in Ireland and America. For example, take chickens. In Ireland, we strive to eliminate diseases and infections in chickens at all stages of the food process – from rearing them to processing them. The hygiene standards on the farm are just as important as the hygiene standards during packaging. In America, it is slightly different. Food safety really begins at the packaging stage – the last stage before food is passed to the consumer. Line speeds in American factories for processing chickens are so fast that the human eye cannot really keep up with the inspection process. Chickens are literally whizzing by an operator that hasn’t a hope of continually checking each chicken for signs of disease. The solution? Spray the chickens with chlorine and various chemical baths to kill everything on the surface of the chicken. Then pass it onto the consumer, chemicals and all. These are chemicals that have not been tested for safety. They are allowed because nobody has proven they are ‘unsafe’. And who amongst us has the money (and a laboratory) to prove the chemicals used by Big Business are unsafe?

America has a lot of great small food producers. The problem lies with the Big Business approach to food – it is driven by profits and the aim of producing natural, wholesome food just does not enter the equation when you look at Big Business. And that rule applies to Europe too. Big Business in Europe (and Ireland) would dearly love to use the cost cutting measures employed by American Big Business. The health of people does not factor into the accountant’s balance sheet.

Genetically Modified foods need no introduction  Рthey are legal in America, not so welcome in Ireland. Nearly three quarters of all American processed food contains genetically modified ingredients. Expect the same to apply here under TTIP. So too would water be opened up to American companies. Co-incidence that the Government is so determined to introduce draconian legislation forcing people to pay for water? The Health Service is another area which is subject to TTIP Рand lo and behold the Government has recently introduced legislation lobbying extra
fees on later signers to private health insurance. Wouldn’t have anything to do with TTIP and the impending privatisation of the health service?

Not only does TTIP tackle food safety standards and essentially drops each standard to the lowest of the two countries, TTIP will also remove a lot of ‘barriers’ such as environmental legislation, banking laws and oh, that’s right, what little democratic power we currently hold. Far greater use of untested pesticides on crops, hormones to grow animals faster, chemicals and dubious substances at all stages of the food¬† process will infect the food chain from the bottom to the top. America has banned just a handful of substances from being used in food – In Europe, there are well over 1,000 substances banned from food. See where this is going?

Under TTIP, we’ll have no choice but to subject people to these toxic substances. Because if we don’t, Ireland will be taken to the courts. Oh, and not the courts as you and I know them. TTIP makes Ireland a signatory to special kangaroo courts that operate outside of any oversight of European, American or Irish legislation. “Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS)” are ‘courts’ established to deal with commercial disputes and essentially operated by commercial lobbyists who are appointed on no clear basis. You can guess how fair they are! Any country that impedes the ‘commercial rights’ of a company to profits can be sued. So if Ireland says no to chlorinated chicken, it can be sued. If it says no to GM foods, it can be sued. Cancer causing toxins being injected into meat being prevented by Ireland? Sued. A health service that is impeding the ability of a private health company to profits? Sued.

And sued we will be. There are over 500 cases of businesses suing countries through these courts currently ongoing. The vast majority of businesses will win these cases. So profitable is it to sue a country through these courts that financiers are lobbying loans at businesses to take cases.

You would think with such risks to Irish people and Irish food standards that Irish MEP’s would be up in arms, that Irish politicians would be hopping mad.¬† But nope. It seems our MEP’s are going to vote for TTIP and our politicians will continue to do as they always have done – do what Europe tells them to do no matter the consequences to the Irish people.