Friends in the U.S. tell us the Security and Prosperity Partnership has been dismantled, according to one Commerce Department official who was responsible for coordinating the trilateral initiative under Bush Jr. So I’m wondering why the Obama administration bothered to update its SPP website instead of dismantling it too. And what are we to make of news this week that Canada and the United States have jointly approved a new genetically engineered corn-thing from Monsanto/Dow, apparently without any environmental assessment and bypassing normal Canadian reporting procedures?
At www.spp.gov, Under the banner “Security and Prosperity Partnership,” the new U.S. administration proudly notes that “Mexico will host the North American Leaders’ Summit in Guadalajara on August 9 and 10, 2009,” that “The North American Leaders’ Summit provides a unique opportunity for our three neighboring nations to identify ways to collaborate on shared opportunities and collectively address our common challenges,” and that “The leaders will discuss improving North American competitiveness as we recover from the economic downturn, promoting clean energy to combat climate change, and protecting the safety of our citizens.”
Then, hinting at a possible change in direction (or perhaps just in name or style), the site notes: “We are in the process of reformatting this site. We encourage you to check back frequently for the latest information.”
So it was strange to hear this week from friends in the U.S. that while some working groups will live on, the SPP has been dismantled. A bit like reading tea leaves, isn’t it? Well, at least we have some idea about one of the working groups still in action.
BIOTECH HARMONIZATION ONGOING
The Canadian Biotechnolgy Action Network, in a press release today, warned of the “dangerous consequences of Canada’s approval of Monsanto and Dow’s new eight-trait ‘SmartStax‘ genetically engineered (GE, also called genetic modification or GM) corn, indicating a further weakening of regulations of environmental risk.”
Says Lucy Sharratt of CBAN: “You’d think that a combination of eight GE traits would trigger an environmental assessment but the CFIA has no public record of their evaluation. This seems to confirm that the corn by-passed existing scientific assessment processes that have already been judged insufficient by the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Panel.”
The CFIA has also weakened environmental safeguards designed to delay the evolutions of insects resistant to the new crop. It did this in unison with U.S. regulators, an indication the North American Biotechnology Initiative — a trilateral working group brought under the SPP in 2005 — is still operating and that regulatory harmonization still takes precedence in Canada over the precautionary principle or high standards in environmental and health protection.
LET THE GOVERNMENT KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
CBAN suggests people contact the CFIA about its hasty approval of “SmartStax” corn. We also have to be bugigng our MPs about the SPP. Regulatory harmonization for the sake of it doesn’t make sense if it means joint bad decisions that weaken food safety standards.