Action Alert — July 26, 2007

New Public Citizen report: NAFTA expansion would worsen food safety crisis

Protect yourself from unsafe food imports — sign the petition to Congress!

Petition: Stop Bush's Flood of Unsafe Imports!
sign here

Our new report reveals that President Bush is pushing for trade deals that would undermine Congress' ability to fix the food safety crisis. But we can stop him: sign the petition to Congress!

Dear Fair Trade Supporter,

Maybe you were an owner of one of the 39,000 pets that were sickened or killed because of poisoned imported pet food. Or maybe you or someone you know has been ill recently after eating imported seafood.

Or maybe you have just read the recent news stories and are wondering what will be next. Well, here it is.

On July 18th, responding to the growing public concern about the safety of imported food, President Bush announced a new import safety panel. Perversely, what he didn't mention is that at the same time, his trade representative was busy trying to push Democrats in Congress to rush passage of new NAFTA-style "free trade" agreements with Peru and Panama that would increase unsafe food imports and undermine the ability of our government to ensure our safety.

Public Citizen broke this story with our new report "Trade Deficit in Food Safety." Maybe you saw the coverage on CNN, which ran a story about our findings on the trade pact-unsafe import connection? The report includes a brand new analysis of the seafood safety problems with Peru and Panama, among other unappetizing details. But, now we need to make sure that Congress takes action and blocks the Bush administration's cynical bait and switch.

Please sign our petition to Congress about food safety and "free trade"! http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=12231

Petition Statement

Dear Congress:

It is past time for Congress to take action to safeguard American consumers from dangerous food imports. With international trade deals like NAFTA and the World Trade Organization requiring us to import food that does not meet our own safety rules and limiting border inspection of food imports, now is the time to be fixing these failed agreements - not expanding them.

Implementing the Bush NAFTA expansion agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea would replicate the NAFTA-WTO limits on Congress' ability to protect our food safety - while increasing the amount of unsafe food imports! Please vote "no" on any and all of these NAFTA expansion agreements. This is necessary to avoid making the imported food safety problem even worse.

Click here to sign the petition: http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=12231

As Public Citizen's new report documents, the share of imported food Americans consume has doubled since NAFTA and WTO. Yet, the trade agreements require us to rely on the governments of foreign countries where the food is grown or processed to ensure the safety of the imported food! Many of the countries exporting this food are just not up to the task.

With less than 1 percent of imported produce, seafood, dairy products, grains and processed foods even getting a cursory inspection by our food safety officials, this trade agreement-required system means we have no assurance of the safety of much of the food we bring into our homes.

As dangerous food imports skyrocket because of "free trade" agreements (FTAs), these same FTAs impose legal limits on what Congress or state governments can do to keep Americans safe.

We need a trade policy that puts your health and safety first. A reformed trade policy would not force us to trade off our safety to enjoy access to the diversity of products trade can bring.

Please sign the petition here: http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=12231

And please forward this email to everyone you know. Together, we can ensure Congress serves up the trade policy reforms needed to ensure all of our safety.

Thank you for your help!

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

How to protect yourself against unsafe imported food
Key recommendations from the new Public Citizen report

To read the executive summary, or download the full report, click here: http://www.citizen.org/trade/afta/articles.cfm?ID=16955

  • Buy local. There are several easy ways to buy produce, meat and poultry produced locally. Not only will you get fresher foods, but you will strengthen you local economy and help the environment as well. At www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm you can find farmers markets in your community and their dates and schedules.
  • Make a habit of checking recall lists and signing up for safety alerts. Go to recalls.gov to get connected with lists of the latest recalls of everything from food and medicine to motor vehicles. Bookmark this page in your web browser and check it regularly to stay informed. Bookmark watchdog groups such as consumersunion.org, pirg.org and foodandwaterwatch.org - and, where available, sign up for alerts - to get more information about the latest unsafe food and products.
  • Advocate for improved trade policies, food safety policies and country-of-origin labeling in Congress. Sign up here to get food safety and trade related news from Global Trade Watch. What steps do we recommend?
    • No more new NAFTA expansions adding to the trade and food safety crisis. If a majority of either the House of Representatives or the Senate vote "no" on the four pending FTAs (Peru, Panama, Colombia, and South Korea), they cannot go into effect.
    • A thorough review is needed now of our existing trade agreements to carefully identify the provisions that are causing problems so that we can make the vital fixes to the existing agreements - and do better in the future. It is unacceptable that trade agreements set limits on the food or product safety standards or the amount of border inspection. If we are to enjoy the benefits of trade, we must remove these non-trade limits on our basic health and safety that have been inserted into recent trade agreements.
    • A new process for formulating our trade policy so that we can get good agreements. These four NAFTA expansion agreements were negotiated using a procedure called "Fast Track," which delegates Congress' exclusive constitutional authority over trade to the president. This system empowers a few special interests to make the rules - short-circuiting normal legislative processes and stifling the voice of consumers and others who must live with the results. The Fast Track procedure is how we got into NAFTA and WTO. In the future, we need to replace Fast Track with a new process that allows Congress and the public to ensure our future trade agreements suit our needs - including a key power that Fast Track removes: ensuring that Congress gets to vote before a president can sign a trade agreement.
    • The FDA needs new authority to examine and approve other nation's regulatory systems and food safety laws as the same as ours or better, before imports from a country can enter the U.S. market. Currently, 80 percent of food products we eat come under FDA jurisdiction. They do not need any pre-approval from FDA to be imported. In contrast USDA, which regulates less than 20 percent of the foods we eat, has authority to approve or disapprove countries and inspect plants abroad. With similar authority, FDA border inspectors might have a fighting chance against the flood of food imports.
    • Border inspection of imported food and products must be dramatically increased. Congress must require - and fund - greatly increased FDA and USDA border inspection. Other developed countries such as Japan and the European Union inspect a much larger percentage of high risk imports than we do. It is unconscionable - and dangerous - that the United States inspection rates for produce and seafood is less than one percent and meat and poultry inspection is only 11 percent. The percent of U.S. food safety dollars going to the FDA has remained flat when the growth in imports requires greatly increased oversight by U.S. officials and increased inspection funding.
    • Accessible consumer information about what imported foods are rejected and why. In preparing this report, we became vividly aware of how difficult it is for consumers to access the necessary information about imported food and U.S. inspection findings to ensure their own safety. The FDA and USDA must establish easily searchable data bases that list, by food and country, what products are rejected and for what reasons.
    • Country-of-origin labeling of ALL imported products so consumers can make informed choices. Congress should immediately implement fully the 2002 law that requires such labels on meats, fruit and vegetables. 92 percent of Americans demanded country-of-origin labeling which has been stalled by agribusiness, food processing and mega-retail interests.

About GTW   |   Contact Us   |   Write Your Rep   |   Support Us

Stay informed and speak out when it counts. Sign up for the Public Citizen Action Network or other online announcements. If you do not wish to receive e-mail messages from Public Citizen in the future, please click here.

Public Citizen employees are member SEIU Local 500. We support the right of workers
in the United States and around the world to organize freely. Union Yes!

Copyright © 2007 Public Citizen. All Rights Reserved
215 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20003