Consumer Safety Laws Going Down Because of Trade Deals

The obvious concern is that any consumer safety labeling law—perhaps especially, labeling of GMOs—could be targeted and overturned on the basis that it caused a barrier to trade.

Associated Press reports that the U.S. House Agriculture Committee has voted 38-6 to repeal a “country-of-origin” (COOL) labeling law for beef, pork and chicken— just two days after the World Trade Organization ruled against parts of the law. The labels tell consumers what countries the meat is from: for example, “born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”[i]

The WTO ruled Monday, May 18, that the U.S. labels put Canadian and Mexican livestock at a disadvantage, rejecting a U.S. appeal after a similar WTO decision last year.

The rapid roll-back on meat labeling under the popular consumer protection legislation known as COOL, fuels rising protests about granting Fast Track authority to the president to push through two mega-trade deals, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The obvious concern is that any consumer safety labeling law–perhaps especially labeling of GMOs—could be overturned on the basis that it caused a barrier to trade.

Americans are not alone in this concern. Europeans are equally worried that a trade deal could force a change to their labeling laws. Watch this 3 min. video by Jon Snow, Channel 4 News in the UK.

“The president says ‘we’re making stuff up,’ about trade deals undermining our consumer and environmental policies but today, we have the latest WTO [World Trade Organization] ruling against a popular U.S. consumer policy. Last week, Canadian officials announced that our financial regulations violate trade rules, and earlier this year, the Obama administration, in response to another trade agreement ruling, opened all U.S. roads to Mexico-domiciled trucks that threaten highway safety and the environment,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch[ii].

Public Citizen[iii], is a Washington DC-based nonprofit citizen’s interest watchdog and advocacy group that regularly blogs about issues related to trade and globalization.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a specialized, autonomous, intergovernmental entity headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Established in 1995 the WTO transformed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) into an enforceable global commerce code. Public Citizen names the WTO as “one of the main mechanisms of corporate globalization[iv].”

 Show Your Opposition to Fast Track







International Research Team links Glyphosate to Antibiotic Resistance


Read the full report:  Kurenbach B, Marjoshi D, Amábile-Cuevas CF, Ferguson GC, Godsoe W, Gibson P, Heinemann JA. 2015. Sublethal exposure to commercial formulations of the herbicides dicamba, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, and glyphosate cause changes in antibiotic susceptibility in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. mBio 6(2):e00009-15. doi:10.1128/mBio.00009-15. Funding for this work was provided by the Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety, University of Canterbury, the Safe Food Institute, Australia, and Rowlands and Associates PLC (Feed The World project), which sponsored the open-access publication fee, in accordance with the policies and procedures of the University of Canterbury.



Glyphosate contamination of food and water: should we be concerned?

WHOOn March 20th, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a unit of the World Health Organization, released their report that classified glyphosate as a 2A carcinogen — probably carcinogenic to humans.  

In particular, the IARC reviewers cited studies from the U.S., Canada and Sweden suggesting that people exposed to glyphosate had a higher incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, even after correcting for exposure to other chemicals. Researchers have also linked glyphosate to a long list of serious health conditions and chronic diseases, including breast cancer, birth defects, kidney disease, and endocrine disruption.

Glyphosate is a toxic synthetic chemical herbicide, commonly purchased as Roundup® weed killer. It is registered with the EPA for use on many food and non-food crops, as well as non-agricultural use such as landscape maintenance.  The explosion of Roundup Ready® crops MONSANTO-HERBICIDE– corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugarbeets, and alfalfa that are genetically modified to withstand direct application of the herbicide – has led to exponential increases in the amount of glyphosate applied to food, feed, and fiber crops on agricultural land across the U.S. At least 283.5 million pounds were sprayed on American farmlands in 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.  Glyphosate is also used as a “ripener” or dessicant to speed up harvesting of wheat, sugarcane, barley, and other crops.

Controversy: What is “safe”?

The common assumption is that “the dose makes the poison.” This bit of medical dogma, which is attributed to Paracelsus in the 16th century, assumes a linear relationship that may not hold true.  A growing number of academic researchers say that lower doses may in fact pose higher risks for some compounds, especially the large group of synthetic chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors.  Frederick vom Saal, a neurobiologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and his colleagues believe that “very low doses of these compounds in the environment are contributing to a wide range of human health problems — including obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infertility and other disorders related to sexual development (Fagin, 2012).”

Unsurprisingly, Monsanto Company, the agrochemical-biotech giant who introduced Roundup to the market in 1974 and controls patents on Roundup Ready crops, insists that glyphosate is “safe.”   Federal regulators at the EPA, USDA, and FDA have not only failed to challenge the industry’s assertion, but just two years ago, the EPA(2013) raised the allowable limit of glyphosate residues on various commodities and food crops in response to Monsanto’s petition.

Knowledge is power.

The initial discovery of glyphosate in breast milk, urine, and drinking water as reported by Mom’s Across America & Sustainable Pulse (2014), has led to the launch of a full investigation and validated testing method.  Up till now, regulators and industry proponents have dismissed the potential for glyphosate toxins to bio-accumulate.  A new validated glyphosate testing method sponsored by Feed The World will allow the general public to find out with certainty what levels of glyphosate are found in their bodies and in their tap water.

Please consider testing; it is the essential next step to a fact-based response.  It is especially critical for parents of young children and persons with compromised health conditions.


Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon speaks out against trade deals that favor multinational corporations like Monsanto

IRT applauds Congressman DeFazio’s action as a champion of the people vs. Big Food.deFazio

“Call it the smoking gun,” said DeFazio. “Proof that fast track and massive free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are written by and for multinational corporations such as agriculture giant Monsanto. Instead of using trade deals as an opportunity to protect and strengthen consumer rights by joining the countries which require genetically engineered food to be labeled, this administration wants to benefit wealthy corporations at the expense of the public.”

The provision, included in Section 2, Trade Negotiating Objectives, requires that U.S. negotiators fight for rules in trade agreements that eliminate so-called “barriers” to markets such as the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Currently 64 countries require genetically engineered food to be labeled including some of our largest trading partners like Japan, China, Brazil, and the countries of the European Union.

Several consumer groups joined DeFazio in criticizing the fast track bill:

“Consumers coast-to-coast are fighting for the right to know what is in the food they are feeding their families, but fast track would make it even harder to get commonsense food labels,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This approach to trade could eliminate country of origin labeling and GMO labeling and weaken imported food inspection to satisfy the corporate interests who are writing these trade deals.”

“At a time when Americans overwhelmingly want a right to know what they are buying and feeding their families, it is appalling that Congress would encourage stripping other countries of their right to label genetically engineered foods,” said Colin O’Neil, Director of Government Affairs at Center for Food Safety. “Each country has justifiably required the labeling of GE foods; the only thing that cannot be justified is why consumers in the US don’t have the same right to know as consumers in 64 other countries around the world.”