by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
food, health, science, tpp

TPP Says Food Health Policies Must Be 'Science-Based,' Except When That Would Harm Profits

from the heads-I-win,-tails-you-lose dept

The good news is that we finally have the complete text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The bad news is that it runs to 6,194 pages, not including dozens of "related instruments" and "side chapters." There is no way that anybody could read through and fully understand the implications of all of that -- certainly not before it comes to a vote next year. But luckily, that's not necessary. Gone are the days when a single commentator would be expected to offer profound insights of a treaty's entire text. Instead, in our Internet-based world, it's very easy to do things in a highly-distributed fashion, parcelling out pieces of the task to many topic experts who carry out deep analysis in parallel.

One such source of expertise is the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which has recently produced an analysis of TPP's "Sanitary and Phytosanitary" (SPS) chapter dealing with key issues such as food safety, and animal and plant health in agricultural trade. It's well-worth reading for its detailed comments on this section, but there are two main points that it makes. First, it notes a trick that has been used in the SPS chapter:

Growth hormones, food and agricultural nanotechnology, endocrine disrupting chemicals, antimicrobial resistance to anti-biotics, plant synthetic biology and so many others. Nothing about them -- among other controversial food safety, and animal, plant and environmental health issues or technologies -- appears in the SPS chapter. Instead, the chapter describes administrative procedures and consultative arrangements for resolving SPS "issues" insofar as they might impede agricultural trade.
Here's what happened to those key areas:
The [TPP] negotiators decided to locate provisions on "Trade in Products of Modern Biotechnology" for agricultural trade (Article 2.29) in Chapter 2, "National Treatment and Market Access for Goods," apparently believing that "modern biotechnology" does not pose SPS issues about which there might be controversy.
That is, the TPP text tries to sidestep all the heated controversies over the possible safety issues of modern biotechnology by omitting them completely from the chapter dealing with this aspect. The other discovery made by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy concerns a requirement to use "science-based" approaches when TPP countries establish their food safety rules:
It is crucial to understand how scientific evidence is subordinated and occulted as Confidential Business Information to realizing trade objectives through the regulatory process. Under the TPP rules and trade policy more generally, what trade and regulatory officials deem to be "appropriate" levels of protection are judged on whether SPS measures to provide that protection are potential or "disguised" trade barriers. Such judgments require a use and understanding of "science" that is filtered through confidentiality requirements, which are antithetical to the peer review that scientific consensus methodologically requires. TPP SPS Committee consultations about the science underlying SPS measures "shall be kept confidential unless the consulting Parties agree otherwise" (Article 7.17.6).
TPP does not require traditional rigorous science where results are published openly, subject to peer review, but permits the use of "confidential business information," where results are withheld and there is no peer review. How that will work in practice is shown by a recent decision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that there was "no convincing evidence" that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the US and the world, is an endocrine disruptor. As The Intercept discovered:
The EPA's exoneration -- which means that the agency will not require additional tests of the chemical's effects on the hormonal system -- is undercut by the fact that the decision was based almost entirely on pesticide industry studies. Only five independently funded studies were considered in the review of whether glyphosate interferes with the endocrine system. Twenty-seven out of 32 studies that looked at glyphosate's effect on hormones and were cited in the June review-- most of which are not publicly available and were obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request -- were either conducted or funded by industry. Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide, Touchdown.
TPP guarantees that companies can provide SPS Committee consultations with their own confidential research in a similar way, and that no outside scrutiny will be permitted unless those companies agree. As well as allowing secret "scientific" evidence to be used, the SPS chapter also gives TPP signatories an option to ignore scientific evidence completely on the grounds that it lacks "economic feasibility":
The "economic feasibility" of the science-based SPS measures to provide the appropriate level of protection is formulated in this provision: "Each Party shall . . . select a risk management option that is not more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve the sanitary or phytosanitary objective, taking into account technical and economic feasibility" (Article 7.6c). "Economic feasibility" provides TPP members with a crucial loophole against providing SPS measures that are science-based.
In other words, TPP requires decisions on food safety and animal welfare to be "science"-based, where "science" includes unpublished studies carried out by companies, except when the science shows unequivocally that more stringent measures should be taken to protect health. In that case, countries are allowed to put profits before people, and to ignore the facts completely.

This latest analysis from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is significant not just because it will help to inform the debate around TPP, and whether it should be ratified. It is also important because it reveals what will almost certainly be the approach taken in TAFTA/TTIP too. Since that is nowhere near finished, unlike TPP, that means it is still possible to put pressure on the negotiators not to sell out on public and animal health as we now know they have done in TPP.

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  • identicon
    David, 17 Nov 2015 @ 3:40am

    You got one thing wrong.

    TPP requires decisions on food safety and animal welfare to be "science"-based, where "science" includes unpublished studies carried out by companies, except when the science shows unequivocally that more stringent measures should be taken to protect health. In that case, countries are allowed to put profits before people, and to ignore the facts completely.

    Countries are not "allowed" but rather required to put profits before people since otherwise the Investor-State tribunals are called upon in order to enforce the laxest standards among all treaty participants.

    There's a reason the lobbyists want Malaysia in the treaty. I can't wait for companies being able to sue countries that try to keep them from flogging lazy workers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 4:53am

    No mention of eliminating E.coli from produce?
    They do not label the country of origin?
    Double plus good.

    That way you do not even know who to be mad at, they do not let you sue. Victory gardens to the rescue ... what's that? gardens are now illegal? Not yet anyways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Nov 2015 @ 5:21am

    A matter of terminology

    When they say 'science based', what they really mean is 'corporate science based', as in whatever 'science' the corporations involved have come up with to defend their actions.

    That said 'science' may have only the tiniest connection to actual science is irrelevant, given no-one but the company who produced it, and the 'committee' that will in no way have a vested interest in supporting the corporate positions(promise!) will ever see it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 17 Nov 2015 @ 5:39am

      Re: A matter of terminology

      "science based" is like "science fiction".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 5:42am

      Re: A matter of terminology

      This will of course be a complete rip off in actual practice. They actually want "mediators" who likely wont understand the science involved anyway to make these decisions. No coincidence, I'm sure. This treaty is a despicable as SOPA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 11:14am

      Re: A matter of terminology

      Hey, the word 'pseudoscience' has 'science' right there as its root. It's technically a type of science.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 11:19am

        Re: Re: A matter of terminology

        For that matter, economics is a social science. Food safety won't just be 'science based', it'll be 'double-science based'.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 7:04am

    The CDC, FDA and the Pentagon should way in on this.

    By the sound of it, what they've done is removed all compartmentalization and redundant testing from the distribution of bio-engineered products.

    It is worth noting that the effects of chemical warfare from a tainted food supply don't have to be particularly overt. For example, a small introduction of testosterone to bulk grain could be used to increase the probability of civil revolt in a given region. I'd be disappointed if the CIA hadn't already done that at least once or twice.

    This may already be happening domestically to some degree. My understanding is that Glyphosate has been shown to shrink testicles in labaratory animals. Tons of this stuff are in the domestic food supply. The effects may be subtle. But even subtle effects over the whole of the national population are likely to have serious long term effects. Those effects may not just be medical, but also behavioral and in turn political.

    The question the CDC and the Pentagon need to be asking, is whether removing trade barriers isn't also removing a certain amount of the safety net from the national food supply. And the next question, is how much testing is REALLY being done to assure that endocrine based warfare isn't already being perpetrated on the people of the United States? Which brings us into the pervue of the NSF as well.

    I'm wondering whether the TPP isn't mostly about making some political cover for whatever disaster is currently being engineered. I think these guys know that eventually they are going to make a mistake that has dire consequences.

    To compensate they are manufacturing negligent oversight to shift the blame, much like the SEC was gutted prior to 2008. Except this time it will be more like 1929 (or worse), because they will be screwing around with the food supply again. The canary might be having a Monsanto guy in the cabinet, like there was an AIG guy in the Bush cabinet.

    Overturn Citizens United. Reinstate Glass Steagal. Bust Trusts. It is the only way to move forward.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James Vanus, 17 Nov 2015 @ 8:18am

    Prediction of TPP Consequences

    Given the length and complexity of the TPP, computer models should be constructed to predict its economic, social and political benefits. Given these models, politicians can then claim "settled science" and promote the TPP with the same zeal as Climate Change. /sarc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adrian Lopez, 17 Nov 2015 @ 10:23am

    Say goodbye to safety regulations

    Countries adopting food safety regulations that violate the food industry's made-up science will of course be sued into submission under Corporate Sovereignty rules.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 17 Nov 2015 @ 10:52am


    "science-based" would not include marking as "kosher"/"trefe", right? So a meat manufacturer could sue for trade violations in markets where such markings are required.

    This sounds like a lot of fun, a real cash pig.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Aaron Bell, 17 Nov 2015 @ 11:26am


    BUL: According to cuneiform writings it is a complete destruction and removal of a planets life as in Bible (#2 the flood) and TriBulation (#3 by fire). Academic & Science ยป Archaeology.

    When you give pearls to pigs they can only trample them into mud and try and kill it's Creator. Our heavenly Father and His son predicted ALL of this and gave us the SCRIPTure. Does it register now why the third Bul (tri-BUL-ation)will be by fire? Let me "splain" it to you. The second (Bible) destroyed GMZ (Genetically Modified Zoology)= Sapiens, reptile, mammals, etc. They had not at that time modified the botany of the planet. It was a functioning pearl with a system that breathed mist from the same aquifers that Tesla tapped into as well as the Egyptians and others like the Sun pyramid in Ukraine. It still is sending a 4 to 8 megahertz beam into space. There was an electrical grid like today in antiquity. There is nothing new under the sun. Improper use of that technology lead to the flood and will also lead to the fire because this time they are GM'ing all life. It must and will be fried, like it or not.

    The 4 horsemen were released in Dec of 2014 with HR 758 with the resolution to begin WWIII with Russia and China for protecting it's border on Ukraine. Soon the prophecy in Ezekiel 38 and the complete destruction of Damascus in 24 hours to never be a city again will occur, providing yet more evidence that Dark Matter and Light matter are Father's creation through Christ.

    Another factoid(s). The fish symbol for Yeshua/Jesus/King Gu; Jew, is the DNA chain as well as the age of Pisces. He is the RNA in all DNA coding in order for Father to create the Universe through Him. The fish and bread provided to His followers 2 millennia ago was a blood and tissue transfusion. His mother Mary was an in-vitro pregnancy in a virgin just as we do today. The 2 thieves hung next to the Christ were representations of Enlil and Enki being prison guards to create the human genome.

    Father created the Laws of physics you hypocritical and arrogant cockatrice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 11:42am

    TPP? Thanks, but no thanks, I prefer Scott. At present am using Charmin. What ever you do don't get it at the dollar store. 6194 pages? That should last me well into the New Year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    albert, 17 Nov 2015 @ 12:22pm

    A "global economy" PRESUPPOSES Global WAGES.
    You, your children's Standard of Living will be equalized to that of Chinese and Indian workers.
    The treasonous Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty will lock it into LAW.
    THANK YOUR POLITICIANS.You/Yours will be working for Bangladeshi wages.
    How did NAFTA workout for you?
    YOUR standard of living is being destroyed by "your" representatives.
    You were told "Communists" were a DEADLY ENEMY because
    they were going to take your JOBS, your HOMES, your WAY of LIFE .................
    "Sir the "Free Trade" argument may be reduced to the absurd quite easily. Suppose Mars was inhabited by superior beings. They could build every product we use, every thing we consume for next to nothing. Say a wonderful car for one dollar. A house for five dollars. Of course they would need nothing we could produce. What would be the result of "Free Trade" with these people? "Free Trade" is being brought to you by people who wish to destroy the US. Does this include our "Leadership". Of course. "

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2015 @ 5:57pm


      Is China part of the TPP?

      What the puppet masters fail to see, they tend to be near sighted, is that their idiotic gaming of the economy will bite them in the ass eventually.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ryunosuke, 17 Nov 2015 @ 1:16pm

    so we are once again allowed to eat paint chips, mercury (and other heavy metal) tainted foods because profits outweigh food safety?

    Glad we cleared that up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 18 Nov 2015 @ 6:22am


      It's a matter of freedom. Big Nanny State Government wants to take away your right to choose whether or not to eat paint chips, mercury, chlorinated chicken, and sawdust on the grounds that they're "bad for you." I tell you, it's like the sugar and trans fat bans!

      [Chunter chunter partisan nitwittery ad infinitum ad nauseam.]

      Why should we be banned from eating things that make our food taste good? We all like almonds, don't we? So what exactly is wrong with adding cyanide to cookies? It'd keep the roaches off them!

      Let the market, not the government, decide what is good for us.

      In the name of the TPP, TTIP, and CETA, amen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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