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FoodCommentary: Food Bullying as Trade Policy

Commentary: Food Bullying as Trade Policy

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By Gary Truitt – Food Bullying, as defined by Michele Payn, author of a groundbreaking book by the same name, “literally takes food out of someone’s hand – by removing choice, creating emotion, or forcing an individual into groupthink mentality.” It has typically been applied to efforts by activist groups and social media bloggers who berate and intimidate people for their food choices and actively work to influence food policy and food choices on menus and store shelves. Now, Food Bullying is being used as trade policy by the E.U.

The Farm to Fork program in Europe is designed to regulate food production in the E.U. as well as promote the organic movement to European consumers. It requires farmers to use farming practices from the dark ages and limits consumer food choices to only what is “organic.” This has led to higher food prices, fewer food choices, and upwards of a 25% crop loss rate in some countries.  The real danger, however, is that they are actively exporting this policy to the rest of the world and using Food Bullying techniques to restrict trade in other countries.

This is being done in two ways. The first is restricting imports of food products that, while safe, do not match their production method restrictions which center primarily around biotechnology. The second is by withholding aid or other economic incentives to countries who use and accept biotechnology. This is being done in several regions of Africa and is the case in several developing countries who desperately need the productivity and health benefits of biotechnology.

The E.U. claims their system is more “sustainable” and has less environmental impact. “They would have you believe they just sprinkle organic fairy dust on the crops,” said John Entine, with the Genetic Literacy Project. According to Entine, when it comes to the use of toxic chemicals in food production, the US. ranks 59th in the world. “Every E.U. country uses more chemical per hectare than the U.S. This is because biotechnology has allowed the U.S. to significantly reduce the level of toxic chemicals used in food production.” In the last 50 years, U.S. agriculture has increased food production while using 78% less land and 41% less water.

This movement is alive and growing here in the U.S. States including California and Vermont with strong organic movements set  local restrictions on what food can be sold as well as how it must be labeled and produced. Over time, these standards are adopted by companies nationwide, forcing the rest of us to accept these standards even if we think they are a bunch of hooey. So we end up with GMO-free water, non-GMO salt, and organic shampoo.

It is important that this trend be confronted and addressed by all of U.S. agriculture. “In the farming world, it’s having choices removed in proven products or practices. It’s also farmers bullying each other when one chooses to farm differently than their neighbor, and is ostracized. It’s also activists on college campuses evangelizing or the mom who knows all on your Facebook wall shaming people,” said Payn. Trade tariffs have been the focus the past few years but food bullying as a trade barrier needs to be strongly addressed.

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