Category Archives: Food & Farming

Allotments being sold off for development despite UK government pledges

Matthew Holehouse and Georgia Graham write for The Telegraph:

Allotments across the country are being destroyed and sold off for development, despite government pledges to protect plots. About 3,000 plots, two per cent of the national total, have been destroyed since 2010, according to official figures, with the final decision being taken by Whitehall in each case. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has rejected just two out of 83 applications by councils to sell sites for development.

The number of plots in England has fallen from a peak of 1.4 million in 1949 to around 150,000 today. In 1996 there were four people waiting for every 100 plots, but that has risen to 57 today, as the economic downturn and television programmes such as Gardeners’ World and The Big Allotment Challenge have encouraged people to try self-sufficiency.

READ MORE…

Demand for ethical goods and services continues to grow despite recession

From Ethical Consumer:

The annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report reveals that demand for ethical consumer goods and services continues to defy recessionary pressures and grew by more than 12% in 2012 whilst the mainstream UK economy grew by just 0.2%.

Total ethical spending in the UK is now worth £54 billion, an amount greater than that spent on both cigarettes and alcohol.

The Ethical Consumer Markets Report has been acting as an important barometer of green spending since 1999 by tracking sales data across a wide range of consumer sectors from food to fashion.

READ MORE…

TTIP means trading away better regulation

Baskut Tuncak writes for EurActiv:

It might come as a shock to EU voters to learn exactly how weak US laws are when it comes to toxic chemicals, especially when the US’s chief negotiator for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been claiming otherwise.  This unprecedented “trade” agreement is primarily about regulation, and threatens to create new and additional avenues for industry and government to use their influence to stall necessary action on toxic chemicals, climate change, and other critical issues that must be addressed by the EU and global community to protect human health and the environment.

How weak are US laws for toxic chemicals?  Only eleven ingredients are restricted from cosmetics in the US, versus over 1300 in the EU.  Under a law dating back to 1976, US regulators have only been able to restrict the use of merely five of over 60,000 industrial chemicals that were presumed safe when the law was adopted, including asbestos.  Under this law, and despite over a century of substantial evidence of serious adverse effects, US regulators were unable demonstrate sufficient “risk” to justify a ban on the use of asbestos, unlike EU counterparts.  Moving ahead of the US, the EU has started to implement legislation that has the potential to systematically substitute over 1000 toxic chemicals—including those linked to cancer, interference with hormone systems, reproductive harms, and other serious adverse health effects—with safer alternatives in a wide range of everyday products.  The US has no such law.

READ MORE…

40% of Russia’s Food is from Dacha Gardens

From Natural Homes:

In 2011, 51% of Russia’s food was grown either by dacha communities (40%),  or peasant farmers (11%) leaving the rest (49%) of production to the large agricultural enterprises. But when you dig down into the earthy data from the Russian Statistics Service you discover some impressive details. Again in 2011, dacha gardens produced over 80% of the countries fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nations milk, much of it consumed raw.

While many European governments make living on a small-holding very difficult, in Russia the opposite is the case. In the UK one councillor‘s opinion regarding living on the land was, “Nobody would subject themselves to that way of life. You might as well be in prison“; tell that to a nation of gardeners living off the land.

READ MORE…

UN: Disease threatens world’s bananas:

From Channel NewsAsia:

The United Nations warned on Monday of the potential “massive destruction” of the world’s banana crop if a disease affecting the most popular variety spreads from Asia to Africa and the Middle East. The disease is “posing a serious threat to production and export” of bananas, the fourth most important food crop for the world’s least developed countries, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement.

“Countries need to act now if we are to avoid the worst-case scenario, which is massive destruction of much of the world’s banana crop,” Fazil Dusunceli, a plant pathologist at FAO, was quoted as saying. Gianluca Gondolini, secretary of the World Banana Forum, said it could hurt “employment and government revenues in many tropical countries”.

READ MORE…

‘Do smelly emissions from baked beans contribute to global warming?’ Viscount Simon asks Energy Minister

Kashmira Gander reports for The Independent:

A member of the House of Lords raised eyebrows in the chamber on Wednesday, when he said there could be a link between global warming and the large amount of baked beans consumed in the UK, causing people to produce so-called “smelly emissions”. 73-year-old Labour peer Viscount Simon raised his concerns about the gasses bean-eaters are contributing to the Earth’s atmosphere as Energy Minister Baroness Verma answered questions in the Upper House on how the Government was tackling climate change.

“In a programme some months ago on the BBC it was stated that this country has the largest production of baked beans and the largest consumption of baked beans in the world,” said the peer who has been a member of the House of Lords for more than 20 years. To laughter from peers, he asked Lady Verma: “Could you say whether this affects the calculation of global warming by the Government as a result of the smelly emission resulting therefrom?” Lady Verma described his question as “so different” but added: “You do actually raise a very important point, which is we do need to moderate our behaviour.”

READ MORE…

Scale of UK food waste ‘repugnant’

Overweight seen as the norm, says chief medical officer

Nick Triggle reports for BBC News:

ScalesBeing overweight is increasingly seen as the norm, England’s chief medical officer says.

In her annual report on the state of health, Dame Sally Davies said this was concerning, pointing out many people did not recognise they had a problem.

Parents of overweight children were also failing to spot the signs too, she said. Dame Sally blamed the way weight was being portrayed by the media and clothes industry.

READ MORE…

Cereal Box Psychology: Why Cereal Mascots Are Staring at You

From Newsy:

Ever notice how the mascots on cereal boxes have the same creepy stare? Well, science says there’s a reason for it—and might explain why the cereal aisle has become such a kids’ trap. According to a Cornell study, the angle at which cereal box characters stare has a lot to do with convincing shoppers to buy the product and creating brand loyalty. Characters on children’s cereal boxes tend to look downward to make eye contact, while those on adult cereals look straight ahead. In fact, the magnetic gaze was a major factor explaining how shoppers felt about a particular brand.

Male fish becoming ‘feminised’ by pollutants in Spanish waters

Antonia Molloy reports for The Independent:

Members of the Cell Biology in Environmental Toxicology group have found evidence that male fish in the estuaries in Basque Country are becoming “feminised” by chemical pollutants in the water. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) acting as oestrogens – the primary female sex hormones – are seeping into the waters and causing reproductive and developmental disturbances, according to a report published in the Marine Environmental Research journal.

Immature eggs were found in the testicles of a number of male fish, the scientists from the University of the Basque Country said.  The chemicals involved are found in everyday products such as pesticides, contraceptive pills and detergents. They are thought to enter the estuaries after getting through the cleaning systems in water treatment plants or as a result of industrial and farming activities.

READ MORE…

What Makes Dark Chocolate Good For You?

George Dvorsky writes of io9:

Researchers are emphasizing the benefits of dark chocolate.…It’s good for your heart and brain. It’s full of antioxidants (which reduces oxidative stress to cells), theobromine (which can harden tooth enamel), and various vitamins and minerals (such as iron, potassium, copper, and magnesium). It can also help you reduce your blood pressure,ease depressioncontrol your blood sugar and lose weight (but you should keep your dark chocolate t0 >85%, people).

The precise reasons for these health benefits are many, but a new study presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society explains much of it. Research shows that certain bacteria in our stomach consume dark chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for our hearts.

READ MORE…

One company’s quest to make meat from celebrity tissue samples

Jenn Harris reports for the L.A. Times:

celebmeatIt may sound like the makings of a bad science fiction movie: A company that harvests human tissue to make meat products such as salami. But a new start-up called BiteLabs is claiming to want to make human test-tube meat a reality. And they want to use celebrities to do it.

“At the moment, our primary goal is to provoke discussion and debate around topics of bioethics and celebrity culture,” said Martin from the BiteLabs team. He says he wishes to remain anonymous at this time, due to the controversy surrounding the focus of the company. “We see inefficiencies, environmental hazards, and ethical problems in the world’s food production and distribution. There are exciting opportunities to disrupt these industries while opening new ways to consume celebrity culture.”

READ MORE…

George Monbiot: Is this all humans are? Diminutive monsters of death and destruction?

George Monbiot writes for the Guardian:

Zimbabwe elephant poaching

Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

You want to know who we are? Really? You think you do, but you will regret it. This article, if you have any love for the world, will inject you with a venom – a soul-scraping sadness – without an obvious antidote.

The Anthropocene, now a popular term among scientists, is the epoch in which we live: one dominated by human impacts on the living world. Most date it from the beginning of the industrial revolution. But it might have begun much earlier, with a killing spree that commenced two million years ago. What rose onto its hind legs on the African savannahs was, from the outset, death: the destroyer of worlds.

READ MORE…

Climate Danger Food Threshold Approaching

Why a Hamburger Should Really Cost $30

‘Abby Martin takes a look at the meat industry, and the massive government subsidies that are allocated toward it, asking why the price of meat doesn’t match its free market value.’ (Breaking the Set)

Corporate Interests Behind Ukraine Putsch

JP Sottile writes for Consortium News:

…For Russia and its hampered farming economy, it’s another in a long string of losses to U.S. encroachment — from NATO expansion into Eastern Europe to U.S. military presence to its south and onto a major shale gas development deal recently signed by Chevron in Ukraine.

So, why was Big Ag so bullish on Ukraine, even in the face of so much uncertainty and the predictable reaction by Russia?

The answer is that the seeds of Ukraine’s turn from Russia have been sown for the last two decades by the persistent Cold War alliance between corporations and foreign policy. It’s a version of the “Deep State” that is usually associated with the oil and defense industries, but also exists in America’s other heavily subsidized industry — agriculture.

Morgan Williams is at the nexus of Big Ag’s alliance with U.S. foreign policy. To wit, SigmaBleyzer touts Mr. Williams’ work with “various agencies of the U.S. government, members of Congress, congressional committees, the Embassy of Ukraine to the U.S., international financial institutions, think tanks and other organizations on U.S.-Ukraine business, trade, investment and economic development issues.”

As President of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, Williams has access to Council cohort — David Kramer, President of Freedom House. Officially a non-governmental organization, it has been linked with overt and covert “democracy” efforts in places where the door isn’t open to American interests — a.k.a. U.S. corporations.

Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute helped fund and support the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004. Freedom House is funded directly by the U.S. Government, the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of State.

David Kramer is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and, according to his Freedom House bio page, formerly a “Senior Fellow at the Project for the New American Century.”

READ MORE…

Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Idaho Ag-Gag Law That Targets Journalism, Whistleblowing & Speech

Kevin Gosztola writes for Firedoglake:

A coalition of groups and journalists are challenging a law passed in Idaho, which makes it possible for anyone who secretly films or records animal abuse to be jailed for up to a year. In February, Idaho became the seventh state to pass an ag-gag law—a farm secrecy statute aimed at political speech on industrial agricultural production. Organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the Center for Food Safety, along with CounterPunch and journalist Will Potter of GreenistheNewRed.com filed a lawsuit against the law, which they consider to be unconstitutional.

The filed complaint argues that the law “criminalizes efforts to document criminal behavior in the workplace.” It makes “capturing images or audio, even when a person is otherwise lawfully permitted to be at the location,” a criminal act. It preferences industry speech over political speech. In fact, the statute was drafted by a lawyer for the Idaho Dairyman’s Association. The legislative history indicates this law was proposed for the purpose of punishing animal rights groups and to curtail a form of political speech of great public interest.

READ MORE…

Too much power in too few hands: Food giants take over the industry

Sarah Morrison writes for The Independent:

Click to enlarge

Increasingly, a handful of multinationals are tightening their grip on the commodity markets, with potentially dramatic effects for consumers and food producers alike. [...] Three companies now account for more than 40 per cent of global coffee sales, eight companies control the supply of cocoa and chocolate, seven control 85 per cent of tea production, five account for 75 per cent of the world banana trade, and the largest six sugar traders account for about two-thirds of world trade, according to the new publication from the Fairtrade Foundation.

[...] This is the year “to put the politics of food on the public agenda and find better solutions to the insanity of our broken food system”. More people may be shopping ethically – sales of Fairtrade cocoa grew by more than 20 per cent last year to £153m – but, according to the report, the world’s food system is “dangerously out of control”.

READ MORE…

The Unhealthy Meat Market

Nicholas Kristof writes for the New York Times:

Where does our food come from? Often the answer is Tyson Foods, America’s meat factory. Tyson, one of the nation’s 100 biggest companiesslaughters 135,000 head of cattle a week, along with 391,000 hogs and an astonishing 41 million chickens. Nearly all Americans regularly eat Tyson meat — at home, at McDonalds, at a cafeteria, at a nursing home.

“Even if Tyson did not produce a given piece of meat, the consumer is really only picking between different versions of the same commoditized beef, chicken, and pork that is produced through a system Tyson pioneered,” says Christopher Leonard, a longtime agribusiness journalist, in his new book about Tyson called “The Meat Racket.”… This industrial agriculture system also has imposed enormous costs of three kinds.

READ MORE…

Sugar adviser linked to Coca-Cola ‘will not act’ on UN guidance

Sugar in foodSophie Borland reports for The Daily Mail:

A radical UN recommendation to halve sugar intake will not be implemented in Britain says a Whitehall adviser on nutrition who has worked for Mars and Coca-Cola. Professor Ian MacDonald, head of a panel of health experts in charge of drawing up guidelines on sugar, said it will ‘not act’ on the World Health Organisation’s proposal.

The move led to fury yesterday as senior doctors and MPs accused officials of ‘immense arrogance’ for ignoring the suggested limit of six teaspoons a day, in the face of an obesity crisis that threatens to overwhelm the NHS. And campaigners last night accused Professor MacDonald – who only recently left the pay of the two fast food giants – of being ‘in the pocket’ of the sugar industry.

He is one of six scientists on the panel of eight who have links to manufacturers of sugary foods, including the world’s largest chocolate maker and fizzy drinks producers. The row comes amid growing concern over the high levels of sugar in everyday foods, which experts believe is a major contributor to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

READ MORE…

Demand grows for halal food as industry evolves

Aya Batrawy reports for the Associated Press:

The global industry for halal food and lifestyle products — ones that meet Islamic law standards of manufacture — is estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is multiplying as Muslim populations grow. Producers outside the Muslim world, from Brazil to the U.S. and Australia, are eager to tap into the market. The United Arab Emirates is positioning itself to be their gateway, part of its push to become a global center of Islamic business and finance.

UAE officials announced last month that the city of Dubai has dedicated around 6.7 million square feet of land in Dubai Industrial City for a “Halal Cluster” for manufacturing and logistic companies that deal in halal food, cosmetics and personal care items. Dubai Industrial City CEO Abdullah Belhoul said the idea to create a zone just for halal manufacturers was driven by the increased demand locally and internationally for such products.

READ MORE…

UN warns world must produce 60% more food by 2050 to avoid mass unrest

From RT:

AFP Photo / Nicolas AsfouriPolitical turmoil, social unrest, civil war and terrorism could all be on the table unless the world boosts its food production by 60 percent come mid-century, the UN’s main hunger fighting agency has warned. The world’s population is expected to hit 9 billion people by 2050, which, coupled with the higher caloric intake of increasingly wealthy people, is likely to drastically increase food demand over the coming decades said Hiroyuki Konuma, the assistant director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Asia-Pacific.

Increased food demand comes at a time when the world is investing less in agricultural research, prompting fear among scientists that global food security could be imperiled. “If we fail to meet our goal and a food shortage occurs, there will be a high risk of social and political unrest, civil wars and terrorism, and world security as a whole might be affected,” Reuters cites Konuma as saying at a one-week regional food security conference in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

READ MORE…

World’s Largest Banana Company Is Born As Chiquita and Fyffes Merge

From the Associated Press:

Fruit supply companies Chiquita of the United States and Fyffes of Ireland said Monday they had agreed to merge to create the world’s biggest banana supplier. The all-shares agreement means the two companies will become ChiquitaFyffes PLC, be traded on the New York Stock Exchange and be headquartered in Dublin, a more tax-efficient corporate base.

The companies said the deal, which requires shareholder and regulatory approval in Ireland and the United States, would generate $40 million in pre-tax savings through more efficient operations. Current Fyffes and Chiquita shareholders each would own half of a combined operation expected to generate $4.6 billion in annual sales.

The two companies said the merger would create a banana behemoth that ships more than 160 million crates worldwide, about a quarter more than either of their main rivals, Dole and Del Monte. ChiquitaFyffes also would become the world’s No. 3 distributor of pineapples and melons. Shares in both companies surged, particularly Dublin-based Fyffes, because Monday’s deal valued Fyffes shares at 1.22 euros ($1.66).

READ MORE…

India’s solution to its coming famine: Get people to eat insects

Mridula Chari reports for Quartz:

In this Nov. 11, 2011 photo, Shaiyan Feisal, 8, of Pittsburgh, eats a waxworm dish called cinnamon bug crunch as visitors sample Thanksgiving-inspired foods made with insects at the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans.India’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns of a global famine in 50 years, and scientists have begun to experiment with an alternative source of protein: insects. “We are now doing a lot of work on edible insects,” says Arup Kumar Hazarika, a professor at Cotton College in Guwahati who has just concluded an initial study on the insect diet of the Bodo tribe in Assam. “We are studying aspects like the chemical composition, micro and macronutrients, the kinds of insects eaten. We have also done a comparative analysis of all these species.”

FAO is taking this very seriously. In a 2013 report, FAO presents insects as a viable replacement for meat in the event of a food shortage over the next century because of their high nutritional value that can match that of other, more commonly consumed kinds of meat. The report identifies parts of India as being among several places where insects are already a part of traditional diets. The practice of eating them seems to be limited to tribal regions in Assam and central India.

READ MORE…

Organic food and drink sale rises after years of decline

Rebecca Smithers reports for the Guardian:

Organic food market :  Organic vegetable box delivered to the doorSales of organic food and drink rose by 2.8% last year after successive years of decline, fuelled by strong growth among independent retailers and healthy online sales. The organic market in the UK was worth £1.79bn in 2013 – up from £1.74bn in 2012 – according to the 2014 Organic Market Report from the Soil Association, the trade body which licenses organic products as well as representing organic farmers.

The growth is ahead of the overall grocery sales for 2013, which slowed to just 2.1%.There are signs that the trend is set to continue this year – organic sales in January were up by 2.5%, outperforming overall grocery sales which slumped by 3.2%. During recent tougher economic times organic purchases with a premium price were among the first food items to be ditched as consumers sought to save money on their weekly shopping.

READ MORE…

The Math That Predicted the Revolutions Sweeping the Globe Right Now

Brian Merchant writes for Motherboard:

It’s happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there’s at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices.

Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we’re seeing them now. The paper’s author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest.

READ MORE…

Are Any Plastics Safe? Industry Tries to Hide Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Containers: Interview with Mariah Blake

‘A new exposé by Mother Jones magazine may shock anyone who drinks out of plastic bottles, gives their children plastic sippy cups, eats out of plastic containers, or stores food with plastic wrap. For years, public campaigns have been waged against plastic containing bisphenol-A (BPA), a controversial plastic additive, due to concerns about adverse human health effects caused by the exposure to synthetic estrogen. But a new investigation by Mother Jones reporter Mariah Blake has revealed that chemicals used to replace BPA may be just as dangerous to your health, if not more. Plastic products being advertised as BPA-free — and sold by companies such as Evenflo, Nalgene and Tupperware — are still releasing synthetic estrogen. The Mother Jones piece also reveals how the plastics industry has used a “Big Tobacco-style campaign” to bury the disturbing scientific evidence about the products you use every day. Blake joins us to discuss her findings.’ (Democracy Now!)

War-scarred Ivory Coast reopens for business

Joe Bavier and Daniel Flynn report for Reuters:

Ivory Coast is re-emerging as the prime investment destination in French-speaking West Africa after a decade of political turmoil but President Alassane Ouattara must weed out corruption and promote reconciliation to keep cash flowing in. Long considered the jewel in the crown of France’s former West African territories, a 1999 coup destroyed the reputation of Ivory Coast – the world’s largest cocoa producer – as an island of stability in a troubled region. A bloody presidential election in 2000 and a rebellion two years later triggered an exodus of capital that undid decades of development, dubbed the Ivorian Miracle.

With peace finally restored, French construction firm Bouyges, oil companies such as Tullow and Lukoil, and South Africa’s Standard Bank are among those flocking to invest.  “We lost half of our companies during that time. The level of poverty increased from 10 percent to almost 50 percent,” Trade Minister Jean-Louis Billon told Reuters. “Now we want to move forward.” A brief civil war in 2011 allowed Ouattara, who won an election that sparked the fighting, to secure the presidency and reunite a nation still divided between a rebel north and government-controlled south despite years of peace overtures.

With the former International Monetary Fund official at the helm, Ivory Coast’s $40 billion economy – comprising nearly half West Africa’s six-nation CFA currency bloc – embarked on a dramatic revival. It posted growth of over 9 percent the past two years and the government is targeting double-digits in 2014 as it seeks to make up ground on neighbouring Ghana, a new oil exporter. “Ivory Coast could become one of the motors of economic growth in Africa again,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told a conference in Abidjan last week that drew 4,000 delegates and more than $800 million in investment pledges.

Large-scale infrastructure projects, shelved during a decade of political deadlock, are springing back to life. A motorway linking the port of Abidjan to the administrative capital Yamoussoukro opened late last year. Bouyges is pressing ahead with a long-delayed third bridge across Abidjan’s lagoon to unlock congestion. Heavy investment in electricity generation aims to boost output from 1,600 megawatts to 4,000 by 2020 as Ivory Coast, already a power exporter, seeks to become a regional energy hub.

READ MORE…

Almost 500 US Foods Contain Plastic Chemical

Kevin Spak writes for Newser:

Tortillas and other items are seen in a grocery store in this file photo. Many bread-like products, including tortillas, hot dog buns, and more, contain Azodicarbonamide.

Azodicarbonamide is a chemical used to make shoes, yoga mats, a variety of plastic products, and … bread? American supermarkets are crawling with the chemical, also known as ADA, according to the Environmental Working Group, which today released a report identifying almost 500 food products that use it. Most of the foods were bread-like—things like hot dog buns, bagels, pizza, tortillas—and they came from brands ranging from Wonder Bread to those marketed as healthy, like Nature’s Own and Village Health.

The World Health Organization says there’s “abundant evidence” that ADA can cause asthma and skin sensitization, according to Reuters. It also releases the carcinogen urethane when baked. In plastics, it’s used to make materials more flexible. For bakers, it bleaches flour, making dough easier to work, and bread fluffier. ADA was thrust into the public eye earlier this month when FoodBabe.com launched a petition demanding that Subway stop using it. The chain acquiesced, but said it believed the chemical was safe—and some scientific experts do agree; one tells Bloomberg that toasting bread creates far more urethane than ADA.

READ MORE FROM NEWSER…

TTIP: US farmers attack Europe on trade talks impasse

James Politi writes for the Financial Times:

Agriculture was always expected to be a main sticking point in the talks to form a “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”, particularly since the goal is not just to reduce tariffs but also to reconcile the two different regulatory philosophies. The gap is especially wide on food safety, with the EU practising the “precautionary principle” – which has a much lower threshold for setting restrictions compared to the US, with its more lenient “risk assessment” model.

Agricultural policy and methods remain the subject of intense debate within the EU and divisive issues among its member states. In May, new European Parliament elections are expected to produce a big swing in favour of populists, many of them anti-American and from rural constituencies. Those lawmakers will ultimately have to approve TTIP so their political hue is vital.

The European Commission is expected soon to authorise the use of a new insect-resistant GM strain of corn/maize called Pioneer 1507. But that follows more than a decade of debate and six separate scientific studies. It also comes despite votes by 19 of the EU’s 28 member states to block approval thanks to the bloc’s weighted voting system. While the UK backed approval, France vehemently opposed it.

US corn and soyabean producers complain that it can take more than 4 years to approve certain genetically modified approved crops, when it should only take 18 months – and they also question the EU’s mandatory labelling of GMO products. “It is nothing less than a scare label for consumers,” says Mr Censky. Nick Giordano, vice-president and counsel for international affairs at the US National Pork Producers Council, acknowledges that these are “emotional issues” in Europe, but said Mr De Gucht’s comments were “troubling” and it was “preposterous” to question the safety of US food.

READ MORE…