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USMCA will mean more genetically modified foods on your dinner table

Genetically modified corn. Photo by Maggilautaro/ Wikimedia Commons.

It likely won't surprise many that a corporate rights agreement -- namely the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) -- promotes the foods engineered by transnational biotechnology corporations with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The signals were there. In June 2017, Agriculture.com reported, "The Trump administration will attack overseas regulations that restrict the export of GMO crops."

Now the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy notes the USMCA "seeks to streamline approval and trade of controversial agricultural biotechnology products" and "fails to protect consumers' right to know what's in their food and where it is produced."

The National Family Farm Coalition has also expressed concern that "the USMCA will pave the way for unregulated gene-edited genetically modified organisms, further consolidating the control that seed and agrochemical companies hold over farmers."

GMO exports to Mexico

Food and Water Watch notes the USMCA "includes provisions to make it easier to force Mexico to approve GMO crops (even though Mexico's smallholder farmers do not want GMO corn)."

The original NAFTA ended Mexico's tariff barriers on corn with the result that heavily subsidized U.S. corn poured into Mexico, forcing two million farmers off their land. The USMCA provision on GMO crops adds further insult to that injury.

rBST milk

The deal will also mean more milk in Canada from cows that have been injected with genetically engineered rBST, a growth hormone, to boost their milk production.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug in 1993, but the drug is not allowed to be administered in Canada.

More of that rBST milk will be entering Canada given the USMCA opens another 3.59 per cent of the Canadian market to U.S. dairy producers.

'Regulatory cooperation'

The Texas Farm Bureau, which supports the deal, says, "Unlike NAFTA, USMCA addresses the use of biotechnology in agriculture. The three countries agreed to enhance information exchange and cooperation on genetically modified organisms and gene editing."

Specifically, the USMCA will establish a "Working Group for Cooperation on Agricultural Biotechnology" and defines "regulatory cooperation" as efforts to "prevent, reduce, or eliminate unnecessary regulatory differences between jurisdictions."

The deal even highlights, "To reduce the likelihood of disruptions to trade in products of agricultural biotechnology ... each party shall continue to encourage applicants to submit timely and concurrent applications to parties for authorization, if required..."

Genetically engineered salmon

In November 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the commercial sale of AquaBounty genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. In May of this year, the FDA approved the first U.S. facility for the production of genetically engineered salmon.

The CBC reported last month that 4.5 tonnes of prepared sashimi products with AquaBounty's genetically engineered salmon -- approved by Health Canada for sale as food in May 2016 -- had already been sold in Canada this year.

The USMCA will help facilitate the cross-border production and sale of this unlabelled product.

Not surprisingly, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, "the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies," has already endorsed the USMCA.

It's up to us in whatever ways we can muster to oppose it.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Maggilautaro/ Wikimedia Commons

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