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UPDATE: Hormone-treated beef exports and CETA

One of the Harper government’s main objectives in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiations appears to be ending European Union restrictions on the import of hormone-treated beef from Canada.


There has been strong opposition in Europe to hormone-treated beef due to its associated health risks. Studies indicate that for women it can make them more susceptible to breast cancer and other cancers, for pregnant women it can affect the development of male fetuses, and for men it can lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer. More on that in this London Daily Mail news article from 2006, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-393666/Alarm-beef-link-breast-cancer.html.

More on the health impacts can also be read on the Beyond Factory Farming website at http://beyondfactoryfarming.org/get-informed/health/hormones.


1980s – the European Union bans the use of growth-promoting hormones and the import of meat treated with these hormones

1996 – Canada and the United States challenge this ban at the World Trade Organization

1998 – the WTO Appellate Body finds that the EU ban was not consistent with parts of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures in that their scientific risk assessments were not sufficiently specific

1999 – the WTO grants Canada and the US the authorization to impose import duty sanctions on the EU

2003 – a new EU Directive is adopted against the import of meat treated with hormones and notified the WTO

2004 – the EU files a request for consultations with Canada and the US asserting the import duty sanctions should be dropped given the scientific evidence in the EU Directive

2008 – a WTO panel finds that the EU has violated WTO rules by maintaining a definitive ban on one hormone and continuing to impose provisional bans on five other hormones

To read more about this trade dispute (and the health risks associated with hormone-treated beef), please go to the Canadian Health Coalition website at http://www.healthcoalition.ca/hormones.html.


In a twist to this almost 20-year-old dispute, a recent Canwest News Service article reported that Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Round Table, “said the proposed (CETA’s) quota is large enough to make it profitable for Canadian ranchers to raise hormone-free beef.”

As noted in our fact sheet, “The Canada-EU Business Roundtable (CERT), a business lobby providing much of the support and input on priorities for the free trade negotiations, suggests a policy of mutual recognition of standards. That doesn’t mean Canada will follow Europe in areas such as the regulation of toxic chemicals, where the EU has developed a much stronger system than in North America. It means that European jurisdictions may be asked to turn a blind eye to weaker Canadian regulations and vice versa. Mutual recognition is preferred by business groups because it means that weaker standards in one jurisdiction cannot be used to justify blocking products from entering markets in the other jurisdiction.”


In 1999, the Council of Canadians calls on the federal government to re-evaluate the use of growth hormones in Canadian beef and to stop penalizing the EU for trying to protect the health of their citizens. More on that at http://canadians.org/media/trade/1999/13-May-99.html.

We will continue to track the issue of hormone-treated beef in relation to the Canada-EU CETA talks.

Council of Canadians analysis on CETA can be read at http://canadians.org/CETA.

For our most recent action alert – Demand answers from MPs on the Canada-EU free trade negotiations! – please go to http://canadians.org/action/2010/CETA-0406.html.