Food Fight Blocks US-EU Trade Deal

Adith S. Sitaraman

The T-TIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement) is said to be a very important deal between the US and the EU, by pushing the EU economy by nearly €120bn (US$ 134bn), by 2017 and the U.S. economy by €95bn (US$ 106bn). The controversy surrounding the T-TIP is that critics claim it could be a problem of food safety regulations within the two regions.


The culture of GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the EU is feared to have drastic environmental impacts. On the other hand, GMOs are widely used in the United States. For example, U.S. maize is a GM product, and with the T-TIP in full swing, it could pose a threat to the EU where GMO is looked upon as a big threat. There are around 82 pesticides banned in EU that are used in the United States, according to the European Parliament’s Environment Committee. The use of pesticides has been a major concern in the EU.

EDC (Endocrine disrupting chemicals) cause drastic issues involving cancers, reproductive problems, unborn children and infants. European commission however, failed to define these terms of EDC being used within its deadline. Beef – Growth hormones are utilized but these are banned in the EU. Also chemicals, such as ractopamine, that enables weight gain in cattle and pigs are actually banned in the EU. Having said this, the Codex Alimentarius had classified it as safe. The Codex Alimentarius or the “Food Code” was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization that aims to set out international food standards, codes of practice and lays guidelines relating to food trade. The regulations in EU are much different from those in the United States and more stringent sometimes. A good example can be the use of lactic acid to wash away and kill pathogens in beef meat which in the EU is not practiced instead, they use only hot water for the same purpose. The same treatment goes for chicken. It has been brought forward by many food safety lobbyists in the EU that U.S. standards on animal welfare are usually lower compared to Europe. On the whole the EU is said to have a better grip with its farm to fork implementation. On the contrary it was also known in 2013 where the issue revolving around horse meat showed that the EU had a few weak links in its food safety monitoring.

Food safety is crucially important for consumers so that they know that the foods that they eat are safe. These food safety regulations vary from region to region. For example, the United States approves the use of GMOs. The EU, on the other hand, bans GMOs. The T-TIP agreement between the United States and EU has a possibility to serve as a back door entry of many of these GM crops from the US to the EU, for example consider, the agreement is in place and effective GM crops that were once banned in EU can easily enter EU borders from the United States. EU consumers are clearly opposed to this idea of GMO.

The United States can look at trading food/food products that are not GMO with a very stringent screening process for pesticides/GMO/hormones prior to shipment.

The T-TIP has the potential to become a passage of entry of goods that were once banned in these countries to be made available for trade.

The EU will face many issues in terms of food safety and security if the T-TIP agreement is pushed forward. The differences between the EU and US in terms of regulations and allowable limits pose as threats to the EU most importantly. Critics of the T-TIP claim that this trade agreement will dilute EU’s existing stringent regulations on food safety and those who will benefit from this agreement

People are also not aware of the complications involved. In the United States, not all consumers are aware that the maize/corn they consume is mostly GM. People in the EU have had a negative feeling towards the consumption of a GM product and are, hence, opposed to the idea. It is, however, proven that GM products, such as corn, have not caused any effects in people consuming it for many years. But the argument lies not on this fact but the reason where food products that can be easily brought in to the EU under the T-TIP agreement. This small link in the entire chain can be very crucial as it drastically could affect an array of businesses in the EU.


  • Food safety is of the main concern here and it goes without saying that a stringent process should be put in place to mutually benefit both parties.
  • On the other hand, GM crops have been substantially consumed over the past years in the United States without harm.
  • Consumer perception is usually negative when words like the tabooed, “Genetically Modified Organisms” are heard. This perception should change.
  • EU wants to be sovereign but eventually I feel to make a win-win situation both parties can indeed benefit from an efficient agreement that precisely addresses food safety issues.
  • People need to be aware of the pros and cons of GM crop. Even though the agreement may relax regulations of GM foods into the EU from the United States, as mentioned earlier, a win-win situation is possible but should lean toward the EU’s strict standards for importing.

Adith S. Sitaraman is a member of the Global Research Institute of International Trade project support team. He is also currently pursuing a certificate in international trade and commerce at UCLA Extension. 


Disclaimer: Photo courtesy of xedos4/


About Dr. Sarita D. Jackson

is the President and CEO of the Global Research Institute of International Trade, a think-tank/consulting firm that examines trade policies and their impact on domestic businesses. Prior to heading GRIIT, Dr. Jackson was a tenured associate professor of political science in North Carolina and worked as a trade policy consultant for an Arlington-based consulting firm. She has participated in trade policy projects and conducted research on free trade negotiations in Botswana, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Panama. Dr. Jackson has also traveled to Chile and Argentina to study their political systems and economic integration policies.
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One Response to Food Fight Blocks US-EU Trade Deal

  1. Shaun Sarwar says:

    Interesting article. This is an interesting issue that is arising since there are obviously many millions of Americans who eat; and are fine in doing so, the food that people in the EU are so hesitant to accept. It makes one wonder to what extent some Europeans are raising these concerns in an effort to protect European agriculture. Since it relies on more traditional farming methods which may not have the same crop yields, some European farmers may feel a degree of risk should T-TIP come into effect as they may become less competitive as a result.

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