New food report shows potential dangers of CETA regulatory committees on Europe’s food system
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) agreement was provisionally ratified in September of 2017 between the European Union and Canada. Most of the agreement went into effect except the investor state provisions and various other provisions that were deemed the competency of EU member states. As such, each EU country must also ratify parts of the agreement. In February 2020, the agreement will be discussed and voted for ratification in the Netherlands.
Many Europeans have concerns about how CETA could affect food standards. In 2017, the Council of Canadians and numerous European partners produced a report on Food Safety, Agriculture and Regulatory Cooperation in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, outlining the regulatory differences between Canada and the EU that could jeopardize European food safety and production standards. It warned that Canadian food regulations on GMOs, pesticides, hormones, animal welfare, amongst others were much lower than European regulations, and that Canada has historically used trade agreements to attack European food safety legislation.
In the media, Canadian beef producers are already complaining regularly about European bans on growth hormones and using chlorine to wash carcasses and their ability to meet the CETA quotas. They have argued that eventually, European regulations must change.
One of the concerns was about how regulatory cooperation committees would put pressure on legislation. CETA set up joint committees between the EU and Canada to discuss how to deal with and accept differential regulations. One such committee, the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Committee, has been holding meetings between the EU and Canada. Consumers were concerned that the committee would put downwards pressures on food safety regulations.
Through the Canada’s Access to Information Act, we obtained unpublished documents from the first meeting. While this document only covers one meeting out of many regulatory committee meetings, and many responses have been redacted, we have found some disturbing trends.