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Citizens in both the European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.) are demanding a healthier, more just and more sustainable food system. As parties negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), proposed trade rules threaten to undermine the good food and farm movements on both sides of the Atlantic. The negotiations are taking place at a formative time: consumer interest in locally grown, organic and minimally-processed food is expanding in both regions, along with public policy supporting these consumer choices. At the same time, globalisation and an increasingly concentrated and vertically integrated agricultural sector are pushing food production, in particular the meat sector, toward increasing overall production through industrialised systems located where labour is cheap and environmental and animal welfare standards are weak or non-existent.
If agreed to, TTIP would be the largest and most comprehensive bilateral trade agreement ever signed, as well as a blueprint for future international agreements. Consequently, TTIP not only threatens current efforts in the EU and U.S. to build a healthier, more compassionate and more sustainable food system, but the trade deal could also expand factory farming worldwide by harmonising standards of two of the largest meat markets (U.S. and EU) and setting the terms for global standards in future trade deals. Eliminating all tariffs on agricultural products in the market-access chapter as proposed would favor ever cheaper production methods. Likewise, TTIP’s focus on reducing or eliminating regulatory differences and protections—“regulatory harmonisation”—would promote cheaper industrialised practices prevalent in the U.S. and increasingly prevalent in the EU. As a result, TTIP is likely to stand in the way of much-needed regulatory reform in the U.S. as well as proposals in the EU that seek to address climate change, animal welfare and the role of GMOs in the food system.