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WTO Deadlock Good News for Consumers and Food Safety
Consumer Group Details Global Trade Threat to Domestic Food Regulations
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The indefinite suspension of the current round of trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization this week is a boon to U.S. consumers who could have lost vital food safety regulations, according to a new report by Food & Water Watch.
The WTO General Council, the highest level decision making body of the WTO, comprised of high ranking officials of member governments, is meeting over the next two days in Geneva in the wake of a stalemate. If the negotiations had proceeded, a growing list of food safety and labeling laws, ranging from limits on levels of toxic chemicals in food to restaurant sanitation regulations, would have been in violation of the WTO rules according to What‚ Cooking? Food Safety Gets Burned By the WTO.
“Our trade representatives must look beyond a trade agenda that benefits corporate agriculture and will only increase the threats to our food supply,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The World Trade Organization is simply not an appropriate venue for making decisions about food safety, which is evident in the current collapse of the negotiations.”
WTO negotiations have major implications for domestic food safety laws, the report explains. Countries could have been required to prove that their regulations on animal husbandry, fishing, fish farming, food processing, labeling, storage, transport and even restaurant sanitation are “not more burdensome than necessary.” And many countries already identified an expansive list of food safety and labeling regulations in other countries that they would like to see removed, such as:
- strict limits on the concentration of heavy metals such as lead and mercury in seafood
- strict testing for residue of the antibiotic chloramphenicol in shrimp, crab and crayfish (the drug is banned in the U.S. and the EU)
- country-of-origin labeling for fish
- a series of sanitation, packaging and labeling requirements.
“The current WTO stalemate is good news for family farmers and consumers throughout the world,” said Edouard Morena, the European campaigner for Food & Water Watch. “We now have an opportunity to promote a different model of trade rules, which respect each country’s right to protect its own food supply.”