The 2015 McGen campaign, which was run by Greenpeace as a crowdstorm on the jovoto platform, is proving to be a success story all round. Coupled with the other huge efforts of Greenpeace, the campaign has successfully convinced McDonalds in Germany to stop using Genetically-Modified animal feed in poultry farming.
The TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) free trade agreement is currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA. The signing of these agreements will have the following serious repercussions:
- Freezing and long-term weakening of the EU’s environmental and consumer standards
- Private companies will be able to take out million-dollar lawsuits against governments of other nationasstates, challenging their environmental and consumer protection laws in private arbitration tribunals
- The state, governed by the rule of law, constitutional rights and parliamentary democracy, will be rendered powerless by major multinational corporations
- Loss of transparency and legal disenfranchisement of the public
TTIP affects everyone – none of us are exempt
The repercussions of TTIP will affect us all directly in our daily lives. The most important and noticeable consequences of the agreement are listed and briefly explained below:
TTIP is a free trade agreement that will not only eliminate customs restrictions, but, above all, break down barriers to trade. In particular, this means that laws and standards will be aligned to facilitate trade and to maximize profits at the expense of consumers and workers. After all, the vast majority of standards are higher in the EU than in the USA. These achievements, the results of many years of struggle and efforts by ordinary citizens, governments and NGOs, face imminent danger from TTIP.
The following aspects are at the foreground:
- Precautionary principle
In the EU a company has to prove that its practices or products (like coloring agents, for example) are harmless to the environment and the general public before they can be granted regulatory approval to enter the market. As a precautionary measure, countries can also ban products if they suspect them of posing a risk. This measure is based on the precautionary principle approach as set out in the EU constitution. In the USA, on the other hand, exactly the reverse happens. There the burden of proof lies with the consumer: it has to be proven that a product is dangerous to the environment and people’s health before it is banned from the market. This makes it easier for products to gain market entry. As the US economy pursues the goal of launching as many of its products onto the European market as possible, the precautionary principle is at stake.
- Loss of sovereignty
If the EU and the USA agree to a mutual acknowledgement of standards, in the future Europe will no longer be able to change anything without prior approval from the USA. So there is a risk that existing standards will be put on ice. Despite the fact that European states cannot be prevented from passing stricter environmental or consumer protection laws, under the new agreement many European laws would be in contravention of the provisions and obligations of TTIP and would therefore become automatically illegal and liable for lawsuit. If the EU disregards this, it will be threatened with trade sanctions and contractual penalties to the value of billions. So future laws passed by European states would always have to be adapted from the outset so as not to contravene the standards of the TTIP contract partners. It is highly likely that the lowest common denominator will always prevail.
Less protection from dangerous pesticide residues, genetically modified (GM) products and unnecessary, unsafe food additives – the fear is that these and other changes for the worse will become a reality for the food sector. The compulsory labelling of genetically modified foods could also be relaxed. In the future, consumers may no longer even be able to see what ingredients are contained in food products.
The REACH regulation of the European Union regulates the authorization of chemicals and in the past has withdrawn lots of potentially health and/or environmentally harmful chemicals from circulation. With TTIP this regulation could gradually be weakened and harmful substances that are currently banned could become permitted again here in Europe. And they could be then be reintroduced into cosmetics, cleaning agents, pesticides and a large number of other products.
- Safety standards in the automobile industry
It is often claimed that although the safety standards of cars in the USA and the EU are different, they are equivalent to one another. According to studies, however, this is not the case. Especially in the most common type of accident, the frontal crash, American cars are subject to much lower safety standards than European ones. The safety of car drivers in the EU is at stake if these standards are relaxed as a result of TTIP.
Adapted and therefore lower standards in the cosmetics industry would mean that we could soon have cosmetic products on our shelves that contain harmful substances (e.g. hormone-disrupting substances), which are currently banned in the EU. Cosmetic products that have been developed using animal testing could find their way back onto the European market.
TTIP negotiations are purposely being conducted very much away from the public gaze. Even EU members of parliament only have limited access to the documents and only very little information is published on the internet. So far the delegates of national parliaments have had no opportunity to view the agreement.
The plan of a parallel legal system would give enterprises the opportunity to sue countries in private arbitration tribunals if the companies see their investments as being jeopardized by national laws or regulations. Compensation claims running into billions or laws that have to be revoked could be the result – without the sued countries having the opportunity to have such a judgement reviewed by democratically legitimized courts.
The parliaments are losing their influence to a committee that will be responsible for the adaptation of standards before members of parliament have even been given a chance to acquaint themselves with the treaty.
To sum up, TTIP is synonymous with the far-reaching loss of sovereignty of the European Union and its individual countries, as well as of the people of Europe and the USA. Instead, large corporations will increasingly gain power and have a direct influence on the legislation and its implementation.
Who is on which side?
The environmental organization Greenpeace has significantly shaped and enforced the precautionary principle (according to which the safety of a product has to be proven by its manufacturer). With campaigns focusing on dilute acids, chlorine bleaches and gene technology, Greenpeace has been protecting the environment and people from dangers for a number of decades now.
In Germany the big coalition of CDU (Christian Democrats) and SPD (Social Democrats) endorses and supports TTIP, despite the fact that the topic is not without controversy, especially amongst the SPD’s grassroots supporters.
Who is primarily responsible?
The most important supporters of TTIP are the heads of government represented in the European Council: in the case of Germany, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as the European Union’s MPs. Ultimately, EU governments – together with the European Parliament – will vote whether to go ahead with the deal once EU and US negotiators have come up with a final agreement.
The aim of Greenpeace as an environmental organization is to prevent TTIP.
Environmental and consumer protection in Europe needs to be safeguarded and it is imperative that a future improvement of the consumer and environmental protection laws is secured. But this is only possible if as many people as possible stand up and voice their objection – after all, there’s nothing politicians fear more than the discontent of their voters. This is why it’s necessary to communicate the complex and multi-faceted topic of TTIP as clearly as possible in a way that everyone understands.