A plea for science-based standards in TTIP

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The EU bans imports of beef from cattle raised with growth hormones, a practice common in the US. In return, Brussels offered a quota for hormone free beef. [U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr]

The EU’s preference for the “precautionary principle” over science-based decision-making is a barrier to transatlantic trade in the meat industry. TTIP and regulatory convergence would benefit both EU and US farmers, argues Barry Carpenter.

Barry Carpenter is president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute.

In the coming months, European leaders have the opportunity to move the EU economy forward for generations to come with a deal that will alter the way worldwide business is conducted: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States.

It is a deal that hinges on a variety of controversial topics, amongst them the regulation of meat and poultry trade across the Atlantic. While regulatory differences exist between some of the world’s leading producers of meat and poultry, the path forward presents great opportunities for both sides, and the EU and US should strive for regulatory convergence to facilitate trade in meat and poultry products.

The biggest challenge to this lies in the continued rejection of science-based standards throughout the EU. By favouring the so-called “precautionary principle” and cultural preferences over science-based decision-making, the EU has reneged on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rulings and international standards, which affirm the role of science and risk assessments to support food health measures. Adopting risk and science-based decision-making would improve export opportunities and economic growth for both the US and EU, while providing concrete mechanisms upon which to base regulations.

The classic example of this is the EU stance on hormones in US cattle production and ractopamine in US hog production. The EU ban on US beef from cattle raised with growth hormones is not only inconsistent with Codex Alimentarius and World Organisation for Animal Health standards, but also violates the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement on hormone use – a ruling that was subsequently upheld by a WTO Appellate Body.

Similarly, the ban on ractopamine use in hog production – which has been deemed safe by the US Food and Drug Administration, the Codex Alimentarius and 25 countries – is not based on sound science or credible food safety concerns. The EU is, therefore, maintaining its bans on certain hormones and beta-agonists in meat production, without sufficient scientific evidence or risk analysis to support such restrictive trade stances.

These non-tariff barriers deny European consumers high-quality products. The current trade in beef from the US clearly shows that there is a strong demand for high quality marbled beef that is not produced within the EU. Sixteen countries that joined the EU since 1986 did not previously restrict hormone use in livestock production, so acceptance of meat produced using this technology is not unheard of in Europe.

The barriers are particularly troublesome given the work the North American meat industry has done with several EU member states including Ireland, the Netherlands and Lithuania, to help them gain access to the US market for beef, pork and poultry imports. The North American meat and poultry industry remains steadfastly committed to international trade, particularly bilateral trade between the US and EU, which will benefit consumers in both regions. TTIP provides an opportunity for EU negotiators to reaffirm that shared commitment and lift the economies of both the US and EU.

The US and EU are close allies with some of the strongest economies in the world and are already strong trading partners with each other. TTIP will only serve to strengthen this partnership with far-reaching benefits on both sides of the Atlantic.

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