CETA could mean chlorinated beef, genetically modified apples and fish in Europe

Vytenis AndriukaitisVytenis Andriukaitis, the European Union's commissioner for health and food safety, has stated that Europeans are worried about the lowering of food standards through the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

He has stated, "Cloning and hormone-treated beef and chlorinating chicken are prohibited by us. ...We do not negotiate our standards. Not with food, not in health care and not to protect the environment." Given TTIP would impact those standards, he has commented, "I don't see a safe majority for this yet."

The Council of Canadians has been highlighting that Europeans should have similar concerns about the erosion of their food standards through the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Beef
Andriukaitis mentions chlorinated chicken because while the United States allows poultry producers to dip slaughtered chickens in a bleaching solution to kill germs and bacteria, the European Union has banned imports of this kind of meat. We have noted that while chicken is excluded from CETA, Health Canada regulations allow both chicken and beef to be washed and processed with chlorinated water.

Additionally, under the previous government 100 food safety inspectors lost their jobs with the CFIA, meaning that the number of food safety inspectors is now lower than it was in 2008.

If ratified, CETA would give Canada duty-free access to Europe for processed beef, pork and bison products.

Apples
In March, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency gave permission to a British Columbia-based company to grow and sell a genetically modified apple in Canada. The apple has been genetically modified so that it does not brown when cut or bruised. This is notable because under CETA more Canadian apples will be heading to Europe. Under the deal, the 9 per cent EU seasonal tariff on Canadian apples will be reduced to 0 per cent.

Fish
And just this month, Health Canada confirmed that it is reviewing the possible sale of genetically modified salmon as food in Canada. The AquaAdvantage brand salmon will contain a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and a gene from an ocean pout, an eel-like fish, so that it will grow to maturity at twice the normal rate. Beyond food safety concerns, there is also worry that a genetically modified fish could potentially contaminate wild salmon stock.

Notably, the United States Department of Agriculture has also approved the genetically modified apple and the United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the genetically modified salmon.

This is also significant given CETA establishes a mechanism in which Canada and the European Union can "discuss and attempt to prevent or resolve" non-tariff barriers relating to agricultural exports, and TTIP could include a Sanitary and Phytosanitary committee to review whether food safety measures are the "least trade restrictive" and "equivalent". Both these "regulatory cooperation" processes would be a means for corporate agricultural interests to push against food standards that reject chlorinated and genetically modified foods.

CETA and TTIP are a threat to food safety.

Photo: The European Union's commissioner for health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.