California Groups Join National Effort to Reject TPP

California Farm and Rural Groups Join 160+ Organizations to Ask Congress to Reject TPP, Stand Up for Independent Farmers and Ranchers

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a divisive issue in the nation’s capital, and criticism intensified after 161 food, farm, faith and rural organizations, including 9 from California, sent a letter to Capitol Hill yesterday, April 27, 2016–urging lawmakers to reject the trade pact.

“The main beneficiaries of the TPP are the companies that buy, process and ship raw agricultural commodities, not the farmers who face real risks from rising import competition. TPP imports will compete against U.S. farmers who are facing declining farm prices that are projected to stay low for years,” the organizations wrote. California groups including Belcampo, California Dairy Campaign, California Farmers Union, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Ecological Farming Association, Food & Water Watch, Rooted in Community, Rooted in Community Youth Food Justice Leadership Network and Roots of Change signed the letter.TPP madeInAmerica

The White House has promoted the TPP as an export-boon for farmers to generate support for the agreement, but past trade agreements have not always delivered on export promises, the letter noted. For example, the United States’ total combined exports of corn, soybeans and wheat have remained steady at about 100 million metric tons for the last 30 years despite a raft of free trade agreements since the mid-1990s.

“Trade deals do not just add new export markets – the flow of trade goes both ways – and the U.S. has committed to allowing significantly greater market access to imports under the TPP,” the groups explained. Especially “alarming” to the organizations is the agreement’s complete lack of enforceable provisions against currency manipulation, a substantial cause of America’s debilitating $531 billion trade imbalance.

California Dairy Campaign President Joe Augusto stated, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership will mean that imports from New Zealand and other countries will greatly increase, especially imports of concentrated dairy products. As more and more dairies in California go out of business, passage of the TPP will lead to a further decline in milk production across our state.”

The TPP poses particular risks for dairy farmers and cattle producers. The TPP dairy export opportunities were more modest than promised, but the TPP will likely increase imports of milk and whey protein concentrates from global dairy powerhouse New Zealand during a period of declining farmgate milk prices in the U.S. The United States imported nearly 2.3 billion pounds of beef from TPP partners but only exported about 1.2 billion pounds in 2015. The TPP will also increase beef and cattle imports while domestic cattle prices are plummeting.

California Farmers Union President Joaquin Contente stated, “Farmers in California are some of the most highly regulated in the world, and under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they will have to compete against a flood of imports that do not meet the same high standards that farmers here are required to follow. Any potential export gains can be erased at any point when our competitors devalue their currency because currency manipulation is not addressed in the TPP. The TPP also does not crack down on the value-added taxes (VAT) that our competitors can impose which make our exports uncompetitive in other markets.”

The TPP also covers important agricultural policy areas such as investment, procurement, labeling, food safety, animal health and crop disease. The stringent rules and dispute system under the TPP make it easier to successfully challenge and overturn domestic laws, as happened last year to country of origin meat labels.

“The TPP will bring a wave of fruit and vegetable imports that will inundate farmers, consumers and inspectors,” said Food & Water Watch California Director Adam Scow. “The TPP benefits the biggest agribusiness and food companies at the expense of California communities that are trying to strengthen and rebuild local, sustainable food systems.”

The letter and complete list of signers can be read here.
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/farm-food_tpp_coalition_letter_4-27-16.pdf

California Farmers Union contact: Lynne McBride, 925-385-0217, lmcb44@comcast.net
California Dairy Campaign contact: Lynne McBride, 925-385-0217, lmcb44@comcast.net
Food & Water Watch contact: Adam Scow, ascow@fwwatch.org
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See the California TPP website for the government’s perspective.

USDA Approves Apples Genetically Engineered to Resist Browning

Source: Food Safety News 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to approve new types of apples that have been genetically engineered not to brown as quickly after being cut.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., the company that developed the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden varieties is currently engaging in a voluntary food safety assessment consultation with the Food and Drug Administration regarding the varieties.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it made the decision to deregulate the apples and allow them to be commercially planted after assessments showed that “the GE apples are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agriculture and other plants in the United States” and that “deregulation is not likely to have a significant impact on the human environment.”

Over time, Arctic apples will age, turn brown and rot like any other fruit, but they’ve been genetically engineered to produce less of the substance that causes browning. When the apples are sliced or bruised, the fruit’s flesh retains its original color longer instead of turning brown.

Consumer groups opposed to genetically modified foods have indicated their disapproval of USDA’s decision.

“The USDA has neglected to look at the full range of risks from these apples,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “In its environmental assessment, the USDA glossed over the possibility of unintentional effects associated with the technology used to engineer these apples, potential economic impacts on the U.S. and international apple market, effects of potential contamination for non-GMO and organic apple growers and the impact of the non-browning gene silencing which also can weaken plant defenses and plant health.”

“Pre-sliced apples are a frequently recalled food product,” noted the Center for Food Safety. “Once the whole fruit is sliced, it has an increased risk of exposure to pathogens. Since browning is a sign that apples are no longer fresh, ‘masking’ this natural signal could lead people to consume contaminated apples.”

APHIS said that of the many comments it received on its draft analyses of Arctic apples, some addressed safety concerns and how Arctic apple production might impact exports of U.S. apples abroad. The agency pointed out that under its regulations and the Plant Protection Act, it can’t base its final decision on these factors, but only on the analysis of plant pest risk to agriculture or other plants in the U.S.

If there is enough consumer demand for Arctic apples, it would be several years before producers could grow the fruit. If the apples turn up in grocery stores, they’ll be recognizable by their name, but there are concerns that if the fruit is cut up and used in other foods, consumers won’t necessarily know that the apples were genetically engineered.

The Environmental Working Groups said that the approval of Arctic apples “underscores the need for a transparent and consistent national labeling standard.”

USDA’s announcement came the day after Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) reintroduced legislation to label genetically engineered food.