In part one I described the basic bureaucratic coordination plan the corporations propose to be enshrined in the TTIP and TPP. Here I’ll outline the basic demands of the GMO cartel. The three main sources I cite here are the “comments submitted” on the TTIP by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (which I’ll cite as BIO) to the US Trade Representative; the “response to consultation” on GMOs sent jointly by the BIO and its European counterpart EuropaBio (hereafter EB/BIO) to the EU-US High Level Working Group; and Testbiotech’s recent report on “Free Trade for High-Risk Biotech” (which I’ll call TBT).
The BIO commentary starts out with general principles for the biotech sector as a whole (including pharmaceuticals). There’s a constant drumbeat of begging for more corporate welfare (BIO 1,7), on account of how costly it is for the sector to develop its alleged innovations. There’s lots about how government procurement must always be at the highest proprietary price. There’s encomiums to how well central planning has been going so far (2, 13-14), a call for escalated coordination, and a wish list for the future (3,4,7) including the preemption of all laws, regulations, rulings, court decisions, which could in any way hinder the cartel. The USTR is to make the sector a priority (2,3) and establish a sectoral working group (5).
Anti-transparency and intellectual property “require priority attention” (5,6,7-8,9ff). Regulators are to keep all information secret except where corporations want something published. Conversely, biotech corporations are to have complete license to say whatever they want about their products without regulatory restraint. US and EU regulators are to be aggressive in supporting intellectual property prerogatives and policing violations.
(Note well that there’s no difference between government secrecy based on “national security” and corporate secrecy based on “intellectual property rights”. (Or media secrecy based on either.) These are fraudulent justifications with no real world importance, in both cases fig leaves for bureaucratic secrecy for the sake of power, since the monopoly of information is a part of concentrating power.
The same goes for surveillance. Neither the NSA nor Facebook has any legitimate reason to collect data on the people. In both cases it’s a bureaucracy collecting information to seek and defend power.)
The basic goals specific to GMOs are to normalize GMO contamination; speed up, weaken, and eventually gut Europe’s regulatory approval process; and coordinate all relevant regulatory activity on behalf of the cartel and GMOs.
The EB/BIO consultation is especially forthcoming on how GMO contamination is inevitable: “100% purity is impossible in the production of food, feed, seed. Agricultural commodities inevitably become intermixed to a small extent…It has become increasingly difficult over the last years [for the EU] to import commodity grains from countries that widely use GM varieties.” (EB/BIO p. 4; the idea is expanded on 5, 7) The anodyne qualifiers “100% purity” and “to a small extent” are supposed to imply that the contamination remains at a very low, innocuous level. But in truth the contamination is systematic, cumulative, ever rising. The key concession here is the term “increasingly difficult”. The comments rightly admit that non-GM agriculture and regulation which has a zero-tolerance contamination policy are incompatible with GMOs (EB/BIO 5, 7; BIO 16ff). When we couple these demands with the “evergreen” ideology of permanent regulator proactivity, we find that the goal is: 1. to do away with “zero tolerance” for small, so-called “adventitious” contamination, 2. to then keep moving the toleration bar as contamination becomes more entrenched, as it systematically proceeds. This goes to the core of why “coexistence” is impossible and complete abolition is necessary. This demonstrates the truth of that both physically and politically.
(The “100% purity” line also offers a broader lesson about the alleged “left” apologists for corporate criminality who like to berate thinkers and activists for being “purists”. Whenever you see someone accuse others of being purists or having a purity test, remember that just as in this case they’re not really talking about an adventitious, stable piece of impurity which can be mopped up later. They’re almost always defending a moving mass of corruption which is systematically getting bigger. Their accusations about “purity” will therefore always defend the current level of evil as being low, normal, accidental. But that level is in fact always moving higher, and is doing so in a systematic way. Such apologists are simply another kind of criminal publicist.)
The BIO doesn’t want there to be a specific bioregulator or biosafety agency (BIO 13). They want to continue with the status quo of pre-GMO agencies having their theoretical areas of authority over GMOs split irrationally between them. Thus in the US the USDA has authority over GMOs insofar as they could become “plant pests”, the EPA has authority over pesticides including Bt crops insofar as they are pesticide plants, the FDA has authority over “food” but not crops, and never mind that the GM aspects of the crops become aspects of our food, and so on. No one has authority over the combined GMO/herbicide system, and no one has a mandate to assess the seed-to-food life cycle of the GMO product or any authority over it.
But the corporations do want such combined assessments and power to be deployed on their own behalf. The BIO’s Gleichschaltung plan (17) calls for the US and EU to set up a special Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Committee. This Committee should set up “working groups across the various areas of agriculture”, all focusing on regulatory coordination under GMO cartel oversight. “Trade and agricultural ministers from the US and EU should commit to annual bilateral meetings focused on SPS issues”.
Thus the cartel wants an especially privileged position within the general coordination framework I described in part one. In addition to the general Regulatory Coordination Committee, it wants a special SPS coordination committee which will perform the same role, but specifically on behalf of Monsanto and the other cartel members. This coordination effort is to compel the regular personal attention of the highest relevant US and EU officials.
Now to the specific goals. 1. The #1 goal is to progressively weaken EU regulation. As I described in detail in part one, in principle this means to gut Europe’s precautionary principle and replace it with the US “ex post assessment” concept (BIO 14, TBT 31). Judging by the silence of the EB and BIO as far as an explicit attack on the precautionary principle, an attempt to formally gut it may not be included in the TTIP itself, but will be left for the administrative coordination process which will follow. But another pro-cartel organization, the European Academy Scientific Advisory Panel (EASAC) isn’t so shy (TBT 30ff). It’s explicit about how the US and EU must “unify and harmonize the regulatory and innovation-enabling roles” to eradicate the precautionary principle and replace it with a corporatist “innovation principle”. This is rendering explicit this particular goal of the bureaucratic coordination. The BIO (13,14,16) and EB/BIO (6) also give implicit statements of this goal.
(The EASAC report is an example of how under neoliberalism many corporate propaganda duties are farmed out to nominally independent, non-profit institutions, in this case an establishment “science” academy. But the report was written by the cartel’s academic mercenaries led by Joachim Schiemann and Jorg Romeis (TBT 30), and is substantively identical to the submissions from de jure industry groups like BIO and EuropaBio.)
The cartel wants the assessment of individual GMOs weakened and sped up (BIO 14ff, EB/BIO 3,6). It wants the EU renewal process to be first weakened, and then to be done away with completely (BIO 15-16). In this case the BIO and EB want to supersede the coordination framework and impose “binding requirements” (EB/BIO 3,6) for this acceleration and weakening of the process.
2. Expanding their goal, they want the EU to follow the USDA in declaring certain types of GMOs to be unregulatable in principle and therefore not to be regulated at all (TBT 30). They want new classes of GMOs to automatically be placed in this non-regulation category (TBT 32). Ultimately, they want to abolish regulation for “GMOs” as any particular kind of product at all (TBT 31), so that the default would be zero regulation.
3. I discussed above the basic ideology they want to promulgate on GM contamination. More specifically, they want to relax contamination tolerance threshholds and anti-contamination procedures. They want to take the EU’s existing “technical solution” doctrine which tolerates a .1% contamination level in imported animal feed and extend it to food and seed (BIO 16ff, EB/BIO 4,7). They want to expand existing “low level presence” (LLP) doctrine to a greater range of contamination types, and also extend this from imported feed to food and seeds (BIO 16ff, EB/BIO 4,7). They want testing to be done by the exporter and then just rubber-stamped by EU customs. But they’re explicit that all this is just an inadequate temporary reform, while the real and necessary goal is to abolish the existing “zero tolerance” policy as such. This is because, as I said above, they recognize that coexistence is impossible and contamination is inevitable (and indeed desirable, from their point of view).
So they want to progressively increase the level of allowed contamination until the very concept is jettisoned, and at the same time they want to accelerate the contamination process by eliminating what meager safeguards do exist.
The cartel’s basic position is that GMO contamination is not a physical problem which has to be physically solved through the abolition of GMOs. Rather, it’s a political problem to be “solved” by approving the hitherto unapproved contaminants. Just like with allowed pesticide threshholds in food, water, air, soil, the allowed level of GM contamination is to be an ever-rising formal validation of the physical level forced into being by the corporate action, the level required for them to sustain their profits and increase their power and control. The regulators already see this as their job, and this regulator ideology is supposed to be further formalized and radicalized by the coordination process the TTIP and TPP will enshrine.
So here’s the basic goal regarding contamination:
A. Extend the “technical solution” of allowing some low-level contamination to all food and seed products.
B. Under “LLP” let in everything which has been approved in the US (or anywhere else), and to which the EFSA has given a positive opinion (this too is a rubberstamp). This would comprise a de facto overthrow of the EU approval system.
C. The exporter’s own sampling is to be sufficient. EU customs sampling is to be abolished.
The BIO comments to the USTR aren’t as overt on as the EB/BIO consultation on the inevitability of contamination and the impossibility of coexistence. I wonder if that’s because “coexistence” isn’t taken seriously in Europe, while the cartel thinks it can be a successful Big Lie in the US. Therefore the BIO doesn’t want to concede anything in its US-geared comment.
4. Stacked products should be rubber-stamped as the sum of their parts, though this is scientifically indefensible (BIO 15, EB/BIO 3). It’s a well-established fact of drug prescription that the synergistic effects of multiple drugs together needs to be considered and where necessary guarded against. This is true of complex systems in general. But with multiple-transgene GMOs the doctrine is supposed to be the opposite: a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts. Complex systems don’t have complex effects. This is a specific application of the overarching NPK ideology of industrial agriculture in general.
So the cartel says that if each of its constituent parts has been approved anywhere, a stacked product should be approved everywhere. Conversely, if a stacked product is approved anywhere, then all its constituent parts should automatically be approved everywhere they aren’t already approved.
5. GMO corporations should be able to play a switch game with their applications, sending one application to the EFSA to be rubber-stamped there, then sending a different one (but still with EFSA’s imprimatur) to the more “political” part of the EU approval process (EB/BIO 6).
This may be in part because the genomes of all the most common GMO varieties, and probably of all GMOs, keep spontaneously mutating and changing in significant ways. Therefore “the” genome which is described in the EU application is significantly different from that of any physical specimen of the crop. Not that the current system worries about this, but legally it’s obligated to do so. There’s been controversy over this injected into the current struggle over DuPont’s application for EU cultivation of its stacked 1507 maize variety. This variety has been found to have a real-world Bt expression levels significantly different from that described in the application. This is a significant variation in itself, and could reflect underlying genomic instability.
6. The US and EU should have “mutual recognition” of approvals with third countries from the point of view of the TTIP and TPP. So if some miniscule country with a corrupt government adhered to the TPP and then immediately approved every GMO application in existence, these approvals should automatically be accepted as valid by the EU and all other parties (EB/BIO 7).
7. The EU should declare the EFSA to be the only authority where it comes to GMOs (EB/BIO 6, BIO 15). The EFSA is well known to be not only ideologically committed to GMO corporatism, but corrupt in the conventional sense of the term.
This EFSA monopoly is of course to provide a ceiling only, while any relevant agency is supposed to be proactive in racing to the bottom.
A specific complaint of the BIO (15) regards the recently revised requirement for 90-day rat-feeding tests, which it brands as “political interference in the EFSA risk assessment process”. This requirement (inadequate – the life cycle of the rat is 2 years; a 90-day test is designed to not measure chronic effects; thus the technical term for it, “subchronic”) was indeed adopted by the EFSA under duress on account of the great political pressure upon it following the findings of the 2 year Seralini study. This study exposed the fraudulence of EFSA procedure before the world. It became so untenable for EFSA to continue insisting that no testing whatsoever was necessary, that it agreed to the sham 90-day requirement, in hopes of forestalling anything more rigorous. But as we see, this is in turn too much from the cartel point of view.
8. In the longer run, gut EU country-level cultivation bans as well, and any authority member countries have to restrict GMOs. The US and the cartel have long objected to this example of decentralization, which the EC instituted as an ad hoc pro-GM measure. The idea was to make the overall cultivation approval process politically easier by allowing member countries to “opt out” with individual country-level bans. Thus MON810 maize, the only variety currently approved for EU cultivation, has been banned in Germany, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxemburg, Italy, Poland, and Greece. It’s currently being widely grown only in Spain and Portugal.
But the US wants to gut all EC-level regulations, and then force total GMO license on all of Europe.
9. Since the US says the antibiotic resistance markers (ARMs) used in most GMOs are safe, the EU has to agree to this as well (EB/BIO 7). Although the EU doesn’t enforce them, in theory it has regulations which would have required it to reject importation approval for GMOs which are engineered to be resistant to kanamycin. This includes most of the common varieties. Contrary to industry lies, kanamycin is still widely used in medicine, and the intentional and systematic propagation of genetic resistance to it is a significant part of the overall antibiotic resistance crisis being intentionally caused and escalated by industrial agriculture.
Wanting to phase out ARMs has been a periodically expressed “reform” position among some GMO supporters. EB/BIOs comment here is hoping to forestall this position from making any progress.
Those are the main points. BIO includes a few others (17-18) such as better labor mobility (it wants to extend the wage race to the bottom to the genetic engineers themselves; that one I support wholeheartedly), better coordination of customs enforcement with regulators; “investor dispute settlement” (ISDS); some pesky tariffs still persisting for chemical raw materials; and a final repetition of the call for more lucrative government procurement, just for good measure.
The two big things left out of the BIO and EB/BIO comments are:
1. The explicit call to gut the precautionary principle.
2. Any mention* of the EU’s GMO labeling policy for food products.
In part one I described how part of the goal of regulatory coordination is to set up mechanisms to attack and destroy hated regulations through administrative means. In many cases the corporations will prefer to leave some particularly politically inflammatory issues out of the formal text of the TTIP, but instead leave those to be dealt with by coordinated bureaucratic assault beyond the reach of democratic procedure or accountability, once the TTIP has been safely ratified by the parliament. It looks like the cartel views labeling and the precautionary principle as being examples of this kind of politically hot issue in Europe.
So it follows that one tactic for Europeans who want to prevent ratification should be to get the public to view the TTIP as if it were a formal eradication of labeling and precaution, and encourage the people to pressure their parliamentary representatives accordingly.
(*Other trade groups such as the National Confectioners’ Association have explicitly called for the TTIP to wipe out GMO labeling. As usual, the cartel is forcing this kind of politically risky advocacy on the manufacturers and retailers.)
In part three I’ll describe how ardently the European Commission has responded to these corporate demands.