Market News & Headlines >> Science Won't Win this Battle

Some things never change: For anyone who has paid any attention to trade negotiations over the years, the current slogging toward a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is déjà vu all over again. The issue across the Atlantic is, as it has been for some 30 years, genetic engineering and hormone use in meat production. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack is clinging to the “let’s let science dictate policy” refrain.

Unfortunately, there are (at least) three problems with that: 1. Some people don’t care about science; they just don’t want ‘artificial’ products. 2. Many Europeans don’t trust science in this context, especially since they felt they were lied to about mad cow disease (BSE). 3. Some science takes many years to play out: There are many examples, such as the role of fat vs. sugar vs. carbohydrates in human health (which is the enemy, anyway?). That opens the door to saying the jury is still out on the safety of GMO. As long as the EU populace digs in its heels – and it is – we don’t see the desired headway being made in TTIP.

The TransPacific Partnership’s issue is different: It revolves around Japan wanting to protect its farmers through supports and import controls. Those barriers can be chipped away a little at a time but also are not likely to be totally dropped. Japan, a small group of islands with a large population, would not want to be vulnerable to starvation if cut off from supply lines by severe weather or hostile action. U.S. ag associations are right to want to forge ahead with that alliance minus Japan if necessary.