On May 2, 2016, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked secret documents on proposals being considered in negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States. TTIP is potentially one of the most important trade deals in the world and would affect every sector of the economy, including trade in meat, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
According to Greenpeace campaigner Faiza Oulahsen, “It is time to shine a light on these negotiations. Hard won environmental progress is being bartered away behind closed doors. These documents reveal that civil society was right to be concerned about TTIP. We should stop the negotiations and start the debate.”
The aim of the agreement is to remove barriers to trade between the EU and the U.S. by harmonizing rules and regulations regarding environmental and health protections. According to these documents, however, it may be to the detriment of the environment and animal welfare.
Chief among the concerns raised by Greenpeace is that the proposed agreement grants big business interests access to decision making on environmental and animal welfare issues at the earliest stages of the decision making process, as the documents call for consultation with industry at every step of the way.
While the EU has stricter standards than the U.S. in many areas—chemical testing, pesticide use and genetically modified organisms, for example—the negotiations could result in a lowering of EU standards and even permit the sale of goods, such as animal-tested cosmetics, that are currently barred from trade in the EU in order to open markets to U.S. goods.
One of the major threats from TTIP from the European perspective is that the burden of proof on whether or not a product is safe could be shifted away from the manufactures and instead be left to the determination of public authorities. In the U.S., federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, grant approval for the marketing and sale of manufactured products. According to Greenpeace, this system could allow the sale of a pesticide that is scientifically linked to cancer unless there is a 100 per cent consensus on its harmful effects. TTIP would make it very hard to apply precautionary measures to safeguard public health and the environment as required under the current European standard of review, which requires that the safety of a product be assured rather than the lack of safety be proven. Greenpeace asserts that “with TTIP, Europeans could soon be eating fruit and vegetables with much higher pesticide residues and meat from pigs and cattle treated with growth hormones.”
Another area of concern is the use of antibiotics for farm animals. While this practice is rampant in livestock farming in the U.S., the EU has taken legislative action to remove these substances from the European Register of additives permitted in feeds. New regulations in the EU for improved conditions for laying hens would also be at risk as the U.S. has rejected passage of the Laying Hen Protection Act, which would have established higher standards for living conditions for hens.
With regard to cosmetics testing policies, there is an “irreconcilable” disagreement regarding the need to test sun screen chemicals on animals, a practice prohibited under current EU law but required in the U.S. For the most part, however, the standard proposed would require that alternative test methods be used when they are available, but would not require that all cosmetics be tested using these alternative methods. The passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act is necessary to truly reconcile the testing requirements of the EU and the U.S. and ensure that products sold on both sides of the Atlantic remain cruelty free.
While both parties recognize that their “respective societal choices” may differ with respect to public policy decisions affecting agriculture, TTIP risks putting ease of trade ahead of public health, animal protection and environmental needs.