Ongoing negotiations between the United States and the European Union on food safety rules under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should be monitored closely, as the outcome of the talks could become the global standard in the future, the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu) said in its newsletter published this month.
In the September issue of the International Agriculture and Food Letter, JA-Zenchu reports on the TTIP negotiations, in which the U.S. and the EU are at odds over such issues as labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods, distribution of beef farmed with the use of growth hormones and geographical indications (GI).
As the Doha round of talks under the World Trade Organization remains fruitless over its efforts to set up a global standard for trade rules, the U.S. and the EU began negotiations under the TTIP in 2013 with the goal of reaching agreement by the end of 2015.
Amid continuing concern over GM crops among European consumers, the EU has obliged manufacturers to label food items consisting 0.9 percent or more of GM products as GM foods. The U.S., with more than 90 percent of its corn and soybean production occupied by GM crops in terms of area, is strongly urging the EU to relax its labeling requirements. The EU, meanwhile, maintains that it will set its rules on GM products based on its own scientific evaluations.
Similar arguments are seen regarding distribution of beef from cattle raised with the use of growth hormones. The EU bans distribution and imports of such beef to alleviate consumer anxieties, while the U.S. beef industry pressures the EU to lift the restrictions, as growth hormones are used in roughly 90 percent of U.S. beef cattle raised in concentrated animal feeding operations called feedlots.
In its newsletter, JA-Zenchu points to differing views of the U.S. and the EU concerning GIs, a scheme aimed at labeling and protecting food brands containing geographical names by setting a quality standard. For example, as for Gorgonzola cheese, the EU permits only those produced in the northern Italian regions using local ingredients to be labeled as Gorgonzola, while the U.S. allows such labeling as “American-made Gorgonzola.” The report notes there is a gap between the EU, which hopes to protect its traditional specialties by extending its GI system to the U.S., and the U.S. which is concerned that the system would restrict sales of existing products.
The newsletter also talks about Japanese consumers’ high awareness towards food safety and the fact that the Japanese government established its own law on GIs in June.
The report concludes that the result of the TTIP negotiations, although a common ground is yet to be seen, will possibly become the de facto standard of global trade rules in the future.
(Sept. 30, 2014)