TRPC Director on FT, 11 May 2015: “Agriculture secretary’s real concern is about American food exports”

May 11, 2015 12:10 am

Agriculture secretary’s real concern is about American food exports

Sir, You report (“US criticises Brussels on global food security”, May 8) that the EU’s decision to allow individual member states to decide for themselves whether to permit the importing of genetically modified crops has been criticised by Tom Vilsack, the US agricultural secretary, ostensibly on the grounds that it would undermine efforts to increase global food security. This is disingenuous on two grounds.

 First, there is no lack of food production globally and, climate change notwithstanding, none likely in the foreseeable future. There is a real problem with food distribution and access to food by some of the world’s most impoverished nations, a problem that could be partially solved by redistributing the food glut rather than paying for stocks to be destroyed. But the real solution lies in developing food production capacity in the poorest countries, which could indeed involve genetically modified crops.

Second, Mr Vilsack’s real concern is less to do with global food security and more with American food exports and, as you put it, the threat to future transatlantic trade talks. This highlights the weakness of such talks on two counts. First, portmanteau negotiations are about “trade-offs and pork’’ as compared with bilateral agreements on mutually identified benefits. Second, where are the estimates on how the overall benefits of such a trade agreement would be shared among its participants? US estimates relate only to the overall figure or to those accruing to the US. It may not be a zero-sum game but that does not mean it won’t be less than zero for some.

John Ure

Associate Professor and Director, TRP,

University of Hong Kong

The original article is available here: Agriculture secretary’s real concern is about American food exports [Financial Times, 11 May, 2015]

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