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The Biggest Attack On Food Justice You’ve Never Heard Of

on September 26, 2013

Post written by Natalie Yoon from United Students for Fair Trade

Although many don’t know it, the food justice movement is facing a colossal monster that not only threatens our global food system, but also undermines our ability to fight for change. It is disguised as “free trade agreement”. Before you fall asleep at the sound of “trade agreement”, read on because this will affect you, me, and social justice movements around the world.

It’s called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and it’s is a massive new free trade agreement that the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other countries around the Pacific. It’s the most ambitious trade agreement in history, encompassing 40% of the global economy. Corporate advisors have been writing the TPP, while the public has been completely left in the dark. You can probably guess what that means: great for big business, catastrophe for people and the planet. Among the many destructive impacts the TPP would have--including attacks on labor rights, access to medicine, financial regulation, and environmental protection-- one of the most concerning is its potential effect on the global food supply.

Free trade agreements are made to remove “trade barriers”, however that term has been stretched to include anything that could potentially interfere with corporate profits, such as annoyances like food safety policies, GMO labels, food procurement that promotes locally grown and small businesses, etc. That means huge transnational corporations are literally rewriting our laws to accommodate their “right to profit”.

 The TPP will then elevate international corporations to the status of nation-states in international courts. This is not a joke. Corporations will be given the power to sue national, state, and local governements for policies that they think interfere with their expected profits. That means that if Japan passes a law to outlaw GMOs, Monsanto can then sue them for violating the TPP. Japanese taxpayers would pay Monsanto to compensate for lost profits, and the Japanese government would be forced to trash that policy or face further sanctions.

You can use your imagination to consider millions of ways transnational corporations will use the TPP to destroy people and ecosystems to squeeze out a bit more profit. Here are four key points about the TPP and our food system:

1. Small producers will be wiped out. As the TPP removes tarriffs and basic protections from international markets, it will be very difficult for small farmers to stay afloat in the face of international competition.  In countries like Japan where 80% of the agriculture sector is made up of small farmers, the TPP will wipe out entire communities and and replace small farms with large agribusinesses.

2. The TPP will drastically bring down food safety standards at home and abroad. Governments will be forced to “harmonize” their food safety standards to the lowest common denominator. That means soon we could all be eating imported seafood, beef, and chicken that doesn’t meet even the basic U.S. standards. The FDA would be powerless to shut down these imports of unsafe food or food ingredients. 

3. We won’t be allowed to know where our food comes from or what’s in it. Food labels will also come under fire under the TPP. Transnational corporations like Monsanto are using the TPP to make it illegal to label products as containing GMOs, since it discriminates against them.  Corporations have even argued that “locally grown” labels give unfair advantage to small domestic producers over international businesses.

4. Governments won’t be allowed to support local food. Under the TPP, government food procurement policies that prioritize supporting their local economies will be illegal. That means that your public university might not be allowed to intentionally source food from local farms, since it violates “free trade” terms by discriminating against foreign farms. 


Don’t worry, there’s good news too!

It’s not too late. TPP negotiators have done a really great job of keeping this assault on our democracy a secret. But slowly, the TPP is coming out of the shadows and people around the world are rising up. The best news? As Americans, we’re in an extremely strategic position to stop this.

For the TPP to pass, the U.S. Congress must approve something called Fast Track, a highly controversial trade negotiation process that the Obama adminsitration and corporations are pushing for. If we can stop Fast Track, we can stop the TPP.

But we don’t have much time. The race is on. Corporations have been lobbying for Fast Track and the TPP for years, and Congress is going to vote on Fast Track sometime in the next month. It’s time we make our voices heard. United Students for Fair Trade just joined the movement against the TPP.Join us! Spread the word, sign the petition, and most importantly, call your representative today.

For more information, contact Natalie Yoon at