Category Archives: Food industry

The new EU Commission has marked up a TTIP deal with US as a key objective

The fight over the euphemistically named Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which the US Congress successfully blocked over the last year, is about to be pushed forward in a higher gear now that the new EU Commission has made clear their eagerness to drive a deal through with the US over this next year.   The previous Commission had already met with corporations and their lobbyists 119 times, according to FOI requests, compared with just 8 times with civil society groups.   The argument is that TTIP will promote jobs and growth – the same argument that the US used to promote NAFTA, when it actually led to an export of jobs from the US and is only now supported by 15% of Americans.   The other main argument is that it will remove regulation and red tape that gets in the way of trade.   The talk is of ‘regulatory convergence’ which is likely to mean chasing the lowest common denominator in terms of labour, social and environmental standards.
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Why GM when there are known risks but no proven benefits?

Owen Paterson, the right-wing Tory hawk at Defra, has just delivered another forlorn call to the EU to surrender its principles and embrace genetically modified foods.   Why is he so opposed to the deeply entrenched view among the public in every EU country that they don’t want commercial interests messing about with their food unless there are clear, proven and overriding benefits in doing so?   Paterson said nothing new, but merely repeated 4 claims that have been made repeatedly before, namely that (i) GM will increase yields, (ii) will lower the use of pesticides and other chemicals, (iii) is a more efficient technology to reduce the impact of weather and disease, and (iv) is needed to feed the world as global population rises.   All of these claims are demonstrably false.
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Commodity trading: a licence to print money

If living standards are to be the key issue at the next election – very likely when food and energy prices are rising fast and at the same time real wages have fallen 10% in the last 4 years – the political parties will be competing about ways to protect household budgets against excessive price increases whether by subsidies, pooling energy supplies, regulatory controls over prices, tax cuts or whatever.   What is unlikely to be tackled is the one thing that really matters and which we are told is beyond control because it’s in the hands of global markets – namely the dominance of the international physical commodities traders which deal in oil, gas, grain, sugar, soyabeans, cocoa, coffee, copper, coal, iron, zinc and other metals.   Over the last decade the top 20 trading houses have posted profits of $250bn, more than the world’s top 5 carmakers combined.
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Miliband man versus Tesco monster

Britain is a sleepy nation until a riot wakes it up.   The hated poll tax trundled on until mass riots triggered its demise, taking Thatcher with it.   Tax dodging on a colossal scale continued unimpeded until UK Uncut shut down Vodaphone and Top Shop in Oxford Street and made Philip Green’s £2bn tax-free dividend to his wife in Monaco a national scandal.   Now a riot last weekend in Bristol against a planned Tesco score has put the overweening dominance of Tesco under the searchlight.   Do we let Tesco (and other superstores) maraud the retail markets of Britain without check?   If not, how do we hold them to account?
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Osborne shares: sell now

After yesterday’s champagne-popping as the FTSE-100 rolled past the 6,000 mark, share prices surged, and the Tory press hailed the New Year as the turning point of recovery, comes the cold truth of the next day’s dawn.   There is a very real risk that a febrile recovery in the UK-US will be killed off by sharply rising commodity prices reflecting an inauspicious conjuncture of climate change impacts, unusually cold weather and fast-rising demand in Asia.   It will push up CPI inflation, and if that triggers a rise in interest rates, all bets are off.
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Dismantling health policy, not just the NHS

It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at Lansley’s ridiculous proposal to put fast food companies and processed food and drink manufacturers in charge of UK health policy.   It certainly indicates that Cameron’s vision isn’t about Big Society, it’s about Big Business.   There are plenty of images that come to mind: it’s like allowing the tobacco industry to decide smoking policy, or letting the inmates run the asylum, or putting the burglars and muggers in charge of criminal justice.   But Lansley isn’t a fool; he must know this is a daft idea.  No, what this absurdity reveals is that for this Tory Government, as for New Labour before it, the real objective is not the public interest, but rather corporate control.
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MDGs self-defeating till system changes

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the targets at the turn of the new millennium in 2000 to halve world poverty by 2015 – are self-contradictory  when the system that aspires to the reduction of global need is also the system that generates it in the first place.   The latest, and very serious, example of this is the worldwide rise in food prices and severe food shortages which in 2008-9 tipped 100 million people into starvation, caused by floods, droughts, waves of wildfires, and export bans from the world’s main granaries.   All of these were variously exacerbated by the international trading system, the refusal to mitigate or adapt to climate change, and rich country speculation on food prices.   So what should be done?
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What part of NO GM do you not understand?

The EU Commission decision to hand over to Member States the right to decide whether to accept the production of GM crops on their territory or to ban them is a mark of desperation which will not resolve the irreconcilable divide between pro- and anti- States.   What is wrong about this contrivance is that it evades any decision on the basis of principle (i.e. whether GM food entails a risk to human health and to the environment, and how conventional and organic crops can be protected from contamination) and simply takes the unheroic line of least resistance.   And for several reasons Britain emerges from this 12-year struggle with arguably the most dishonourable record in Europe.
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Weak on junk food, weak on the causes of junk food

Do the Tories really care about obesity, alcoholism, rubbish food?   Apparently not?   Lansley, who disgracefully calls himself Secretary for Health, is quite content to let his corporate friends in the lucrative Food and Drinks Federation poison the health and well-being of the population so long as they pay for the government’s advertising campaign which is a cover for inactivity.   It costs the NHS £17bn per year to deal with alcohol misuse, another £17bn to treat obesity, while junk food – deliberately corrupted with high fat and salt and sugar content by the food industry – hugely damage health partucularly among the poor.   But the government turns a blind eye.
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