Washington Insider-- Friday

Greenpeace Attacks T-TIP

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

EPA Pulls Back Report That Stated Glyphosate Not Likely to Cause Cancer

Cancer is not likely to be caused by the herbicide glyphosate, developed by Monsanto and used in its Roundup brand of products, according to a report inadvertently released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA report’s findings contrast with those in a 2015 review of glyphosate by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The IARC report determined that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen.”

Issues with the methodology used for the IARC report were raised in the EPA review. IARC ignored several studies on the effects of exposure to glyphosate and also included other studies with significant limitations, the EPA report said.

Monsanto hailed the report and said it reaffirmed their position all along that glyphosate is safe. “No pesticide regulator in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen, and this conclusion by the EPA once again reinforces this important fact,” Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said in a statement.

Documents discussing meetings with Monsanto over potential changes to labels of glyphosate products were also released accidentally and the agency pulled the document from the regulation.gov website. The changes discussed would be voluntary, and address concerns that glyphosate can harm the habitats of certain pollinating insects.

EPA disputed the assertion that the report is “final,” despite it being clearly marked as such and having a publication date of Oct. 1, 2015. EPA also pulled Monsanto dismissed the EPA’s statements about the review being incomplete, noting that the document was signed and marked final.


GIPSA Receives Recommendations from NGFA, NAEGA

Recommended changes to a proposed rule from the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's (GIPSA) on implementation of reforms made by Congress to the U.S. Grain Standards Act (USGSA) were submitted in a joint statement by The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA). Link to full statement.

“The reforms made to GIPSA's operations as part of the Reauthorization Act are designed to restore much-needed continuity, predictability and ongoing improvement of the important official inspection and weighing services provided by GIPSA's Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS)," said NGFA President Randy Gordon and NAEGA President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Martin said in the statement.

NGFA and NAEGA highlighted three major changes they are seeking to GIPSA’s proposed rule:

Modify the proposed definition of "emergency" in the rulemaking to recognize that the law requires USDA to issue waivers from official inspection and weighing certificates under circumstances other than emergencies, provided the buyer and seller agree and the waiver does not impair the objectives of the USGSA.

The groups objected to GIPSA's proposal to limit the definition of "emergency" to "conditions outside the control" of GIPSA or its delegated state agencies - a potentially giant loophole that Congress did not authorize in the law.

Reduce official inspection and weighing fees charged at both domestic and export facilities, since the quantity of funds in FGIS's operating reserve currently exceeds reasonable levels.

Add new language to require that facilities operating at export port locations be notified at the same time as the secretary of agriculture if a delegated state agency utilizes the new USGSA provision to provide 72 hours' advance notice to USDA that it intends to discontinue providing official inspection service.

Washington Insider: Greenpeace Attacks T-TIP

International Trade deals are typically negotiated in private, since their success involves concessions from all sides. As a result, those who fear losing economic protections often fight hard against each step in hopes of defeating an issue. Instead of negotiating in public, WTO members now negotiate in private and then allow long periods of review and approval before the final deal is implemented.

This week, Bloomberg reported that Greenpeace was able to post leaked draft chapters of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) on its website. The group then charged that “US negotiators have been consulting with industry behind closed doors.” The group argued that “this puts corporations before the interests of the public and threatens environmental and consumer protections.”

Trade officials in the United States and the European Union (EU) rushed to say they were pushing back on the Greenpeace claims. For example, the U.S. Trade Representative said that “T-TIP will preserve, not undermine, our strong consumer, health, environmental standards, and position the US and the EU to work together to push standards higher around the world.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the leaks will not harm the U.S. goal of concluding the negotiations this year. USTR said the U.S. would not comment on the validity of the leaked documents, but that the interpretations “appear to be misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst.”

However, subsequent statements from EU officials suggest that the leak is a heavy hit for the negotiating process. For example, although EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem argued that “many of today's alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup,” she faced charges from Greenpeace that she has failed to protect EU public interests, including “the precautionary principle.”

The “precautionary” approach is used by the Europeans to severely weaken the role of science in policy considerations, and likely will continue to be strongly opposed by the United States. It provides the basis for numerous EU policies against GMOs in spite of literally hundreds of scientific studies that point out the safety of GMO technology.

Bloomberg says that even as EU and Greenpeace officials squared off in Brussels press conferences, Greenpeace was on line calling on Malmstroem to halt the talks because they are not in the “public interest,” Jorgo Riss, Greenpeace EU unit director, said.

The leaked documents consist of consolidated chapters that juxtapose U.S. and EU bargaining positions and bracket remaining differences. They reflect much of the give and take of the three-year-long talks.

The EU's lead trade negotiator is declining to say how this most recent leak might affect the talks, but he rejected Greenpeace's interpretation of the texts. Greenpeace is insisting that the US tied the issue of lowering car tariffs — “a key EU offensive interest," Bloomberg says — to changes in EU's protections, especially “the precautionary principle,” and to the loosening of laws governing genetically modified organisms.

EU trade Negotiator Bercero denies that the EU would agree to such demands. “I don't think it's correct to say that the U.S. is pushing for lower levels of protection in the EU,” he said. “We don't agree with them on GMOs, but that doesn't mean that the U.S. is asking to lower our level of protection. The Americans know our position quite well.”

Malmstroem, for her part, pushed back in a blog that insisted that “[These texts] reflect each side's negotiating position, nothing else, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are areas where the EU and the U.S. have different views.” The EU insists that agriculture will be discussed at the end of the talks, along with other issues such as a gradual reduction of tariff rates for U.S. beef.

The European Commission couldn't say yet how the leaks were achieved, though Bercero said the documents were retyped, suggesting that someone with access to a reading room set up for European Parliament members in Brussels or for national parliamentarians in some member state capital managed to photograph the texts. Trade negotiator Bercero said he hoped to keep the reading rooms open, though he was unable to confirm whether the US would agree to this going forward.

While the Europeans are suggesting that the United States is making many unreasonable demands, the European positions appear to be increasingly rigid and politically based—as they have often been on trade issues.

Still, the European markets are large and represent millions of wealthy customers. US negotiators are right to play down the negative impacts of the Greenpeace attack and to pursue a broadly beneficial trade deal, if one can be found, Washington Insider believes.

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