February 20, 2017
February 12, 2017: The European Parliament has approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. However, there are still many steps before implementation including the need for 38 national and regional parliaments to ratify the deal. The Netherlands still has the power to block the plan if it decides to demand an advisory national referendum on the agreement.
CETA does not change any regulations relating to genetically modified organisms but it sets up a "dialogue" between Canada and Europe to increase market access to GMOs, including discussing "Low Level Presence" which would allow a percent on unapproved GMOs to contaminate our food.
CETA sets up a "dialogue" to prepare the way for "Low Level Presence" contamination of our food with unapproved GM foods. Click here to send your instant letter to the Minister of Health to oppose Low Level Presence.
1. The Parties agree that cooperation and information exchange on issues in connection with biotechnology products are of mutual interest. Such cooperation and exchange of information shall take place in the bilateral dialogue on agricultural biotech market access issues of mutual interest which was established by the Mutually Agreed Solution reached on 15 July 2009 between Canada and the European Union following the WTO dispute European Communities – Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products WT/DS292. The bilateral dialogue covers any relevant issue of mutual interest to the Parties, including:
- biotechnology product approvals in the territory of the Parties as well as, where appropriate, forthcoming applications for product approvals of commercial interest to either side;
- the commercial and economic outlook for future approvals of biotechnology products;
- any trade impact related to asynchronous approvals of biotechnology products or the accidental release of unauthorised products, and any appropriate measures in this respect;
- any biotech-related measures that may affect trade between the Parties, including measures of Member States of the European Union;
- any new legislation in the field of biotechnology; and
- best practices in the implementation of legislation on biotechnology.
2. The Parties also note the importance of the following shared objectives with respect to cooperation in the field of biotechnology:
- to exchange information on policy, regulatory and technical issues of common interest related to biotechnology products, and, in particular, information on their respective systems and processes for risk assessments for decision-making on the use of genetically modified organisms;
- to promote efficient science-based approval processes for biotechnology products;
- to cooperate internationally on issues related to biotechnology, such as low level presence of genetically modified organisms; and
- to engage in regulatory cooperation to minimise adverse trade impacts of regulatory practices related to biotechnology products.
See more on CETA below.
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP)
The text of the TTP was released on Nov 5, 2015. Article 2.29 (in Chapter 2) pertains to "Trade of Products of Modern Biotechnology." There are no restrictions in the TTP to the domestic regulation of GM foods, including the ability of GM foods to be labelled. The text specifically addresses the issue of "Low Level Presence", creating a working group for more cooperation on this and other GMO related issues.
The TTP will however have other impacts - we know that changes to milk quotas in Canada will mean that milk produced in the US will now enter Canada, and some of this milk could be produced through the use of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). In 1999, Health Canada denied approval to BGH on animal health grounds, after ten years of protest from Canadian consumers and farmers. Read the blog from the Council of Canadians here.
More on CETA
Global Justice now says that CETA was widely opposed by civil society groups across Europe and Canada because:
- it contains a system that enables corporations to sue governments for enacting laws and regulations that might harm their profits
- it contains a ‘Regulatory Cooperation’ chapter which threatens to hand multinationals a greater role in the formulation of making laws, and sparking a race to the bottom in standards for important areas like food safety and environmental regulation.
- it locks in privatisation and deregulation at current levels for a wide range of services.
- Food, Agriculture and CETA: The possible implications of a second generation, comprehensive trade agreement, A presentation by Lauren Baker, Toronto Food Policy Council, February 2011
- Trade agreement with Europe threatens Canada’s farmers, by Terry Boehm, President, National Farmers Union, Common Ground Magazine, Nov 2010.
- Video Primer on CETA from the Canadian Auto Workers
What is CETA?
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) - the trade agreement between Canada and the European Commission will impact on all aspects of our lives. The proposed agreement will jeopardize the ability of governments at all levels to procure goods and services that favour in any way local businesses thereby, for example, destroying arrangements that specifically source local food. Further this agreement is calling for the inclusion of UPOV91 a draconian form of Plant Breeders Rights legislation that will effectively eliminate a farmer’s or citizen’s ability to save, reuse, exchange and sell seed. This agreement is also calling for the inclusion of enforcement procedures to uphold intellectual property rights that would allow for the judicial precautionary seizure of movable and immovable property, and the freezing of bank accounts of the alleged infringer. A farmer could see his/her home, land, equipment, and crops seized and have bank accounts frozen for being accused of using seed (including their own) that has a gene patent or other form of intellectual property attached to it. This agreement is likely to have very negative impacts on our Canadian supply management systems for dairy, poultry and egg farmers as well as the Canadian Wheat Board.
The Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA) is already being negotiated! On May 6, 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched negotiations with Europe toward a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that will go beyond NAFTA in ways that threaten public services and local democracy in Canada. On April 19, 2010, the Trade Justice Network leaked the draft consolidated text of the agreement to start a public debate on the effect the agreement would have on a number of public policy areas in Canada.
European companies see Canada's public services, including water treatment, transportation, energy and even health care, as ripe for privatization. Europe has already requested that GMOs be exempt from the trade agreement but the rights of farmers to save seed are under direct attack from the agreement. CETA would put powerful new tools into the hands of the biotech corporations.
How will CETA affect farmers?
National Farmers Union (NFU) President, Terry Boehm, warns this agreement will further intensify Canada's farm income crisis. "The CETA would mean many changes, but none more negative than its effect to extinguish farmers' rights to save and re-use seeds," states Boehm.
From the National Farmers Union:
Agriculture is a critical economic sector that will be severely affected by the proposed trade agreement with Europe. The trade deal will concentrate even more power in the hands of corporations, at the expense of farmers and food sovereignty.
Corporations Get Powerful New Tools to Control Seeds
The trade deal would give biotech, pharmaceutical, pesticide, seed, and grain companies powerful new tools to force farmers to buy seeds at high prices, on corporate terms. It would give corporations even more power to ultimately decide who farms and how.
Eliminate the Right to Save Seed?
The trade deal would almost entirely eliminate the rights of farmers to save, reuse and sell seed
Plant varieties can be protected as intellectual property through Plant Breeders Rights as well as patents on genes. The trade deal would give rights holders an unprecedented degree of control over seeds and farming by committing Canada to adopt UPOV'91, the draconian 1991 version of The International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties. The inclusion of UPOV'91 in the deal is completely unnecessary and is excessively harmful to Canadian farmers. Seed breeders would have the right to collect royalties on seed at any point in the food chain!
The draft of the trade deal also says that biotech corporations could seize the crops, equipment, and farms - and freeze the bank accounts - of farmers who are deemed patent infringers, like farmers who find unwanted contamination in their fields.
End Supply Management?
The deal would commit Canada to reducing or eliminating agricultural subsidies and other government supports to farmers over time. Supply management systems that have allowed farmers in the dairy, poultry, and egg sectors to earn a decent living are under attack. The Canadian Wheat Board (a farmer controlled grain marketer) is very likely under also threat.
Other Trade News
November 2009: Contamination crisis deepens as reported GM flax contamination from Canada continues to be found. Canadian flax farmers face depressed prices and their European market is closed.
October 22, 2009. Press Release: European Consumers Warned that Trade Deal with Canada could be used to Weaken GMO Regulations
July 20, 2009. Press Release: Genetically Modified Food: Canada capitulates and abandons fight with Europe at the WTO.
Canada and Europe have signed a bilateral settlement which ends Canada's dispute with the EU at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over genetically modified foods - this leaves the US and Argentina alone in their WTO dispute with Europe over GM food and requires Canada to meet with EU officials twice yearly to discuss GM issues.
The Canadian Government is trying to spin this new agreement as improving market access for GM crops in Europe, but this access already exists and the obstacle for Canadian food exports to Europe is continued consumer rejection. According to Monsanto, by March of this year, the European Commission had already approved all of the GM seeds currently used in Canada.
April 21, 2010 - Press Release, National Farmers Union: Secret Text of Canada-EU Trade Deal Released: The agreement may be the largest single issue on farm-policy horizon
Click here for background information: CBAN Briefing: WTO dispute over Genetically Modified Organisms: Canada, Argentina, US vs European Union, July 20, 2009
On May 13, 2003, Canada filed a complaint, in tandem with complaints filed by Australia and the US, to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body regarding European Commission delays in approving GMOs.
Canada, US and Argentina alleged that the EU had put in place a de facto moratorium on GM approvals and that they had:
• Refused to give the approval to a number of new GM foods,
• Stopped processing applications for new GMOs,
• Not taken action to stop EU member states banning GM products.
In 2006, WTO dispute panels ruled that the EU had put in place an illegal moratorium. Canada and the EU continued discussions as the EU requested more time to address the outcome of the WTO ruling.
European Union Member States are clashing with the European Commission over the approval of GMOs. The European Commission has approved 21 new GM crops since the WTO dispute was filed in 2003, while European countries continue to ban some GM crops. According to Monsanto, as of March of 2009, the European Commission had actually approved the last of the GM seeds used in Canada. Yet six European Union member states have banned the cultivation of Monsanto’s GM corn MON810
Click here to read Canadian Government Press Release July 15
Click here to read the European Union Press Release July 15.