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Canada using CETA to attack European food safety rules, new documents reveal

Ottawa and Amsterdam – As the Netherlands Parliament votes on ratifying the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) this morning, new documents reveal that Canadian regulators have been using the agreement to weaken European food safety regulations.

Under Canadian Access to Information laws, the Council of Canadians has obtained documents from the first meeting of the CETA Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee, held in Ottawa on March 27 and 28, 2018. This is one of many so-called regulatory cooperation committees designed to discuss regulations affecting bilateral trade between Canada and the EU.

These documents show that Canada has been challenging many European regulations, including animal and plant legislation, regulations covering certain pesticides and herbicides, and the precautionary principle.

The precautionary principle underpins major European legislation on food, chemicals and pesticides, and requires that Member States take preventive action where there is a risk to public health and biodiversity. The documents show Canadian regulators not only opposing the EU approach, but getting assurances from EU regulators that the EU will eventually change its approach.

At many points in the documents, the Canadian regulators appear to subtly threaten to take the EU to the World Trade Organization. In response, the EU regulators assure Canadian regulators that legislation will change or that Canada will be given an opportunity to participate in the EU legislative process.

According to the documents, Canada appears to be successful in changing minimum residue levels for pesticides and herbicides. In a few cases involving dimethoate and glyphosate, the CETA committee not only agrees with Canada but also decides to embark on an advocacy campaign to change EU regulations as well as those of member states.

“We should be adopting Europe’s higher food safety regulations, not destroying them,” said Sujata Dey, Trade Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “These documents demonstrate how Canada is backing Trump-style U.S. interests, attacking sensible European legislation that protects human health, animals and the environment.”

The documents reveal instances in which the Canadian regulators refuse to discuss European regulators’ questions. In these cases, Canadian regulators state that due to the importance of the U.S. market, they have to choose to harmonize with the U.S. instead of Europe.

In Europe, where the CETA debate is raging, foodwatch Netherlands said that people should not buy the hype about the agreement.

“It is important that Dutch and European politicians take note of these documents, because the CETA sales pitch doesn’t meet the reality,” said Nicole van Gamert, Netherlands Director of foodwatch. “We were told, time and time again, that CETA and its regulatory committees would not harm our health and the environment. We were told that the precautionary principle would be enshrined and that it was untouchable. But from the first meeting of just one of many committees, it appears this is not true. CETA is a dangerous deal for European food safety.”

The document was released on the Radar consumer television show in the Netherlands. The report and uncovered documents are available here. A highlight of the documents can be found here.


About the Council of Canadians: Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is a grassroots-based social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country and over 150,000 supporters from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

Through our campaigns we advocate for clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, and a vibrant democracy. We educate and empower people to hold our governments and corporations accountable.

The Council of Canadians is a registered non-profit organization and does not accept money from corporations or governments.

foodwatch is a citizen-based watchdog in the food sector. We uncover and challenge food industry practices that violate the rights or interests of consumers, with the aim of forcing political decision makers to address loopholes in European and national food policies. By conducting research, exposing scandals, mobilizing consumers and lobbying governments, foodwatch provides an important counterweight to the power of the food industry. Our campaigns have raised awareness on a range of vital topics and led to successful legal challenges and some significant changes in food industry practices and governmental policy.