Two Urgent Action Items to Stop Corporate Power Grabs and Protect Your Health
June 21, 2015
By Dr. Mercola
If you care about the quality of your food, and want to be able to identify genetically engineered (GE) foods, then this interview is of great importance. In it, Ben Beachy reveals important details about the imminent legislative threats that can seriously impair your ability to purchase healthy food.
You also need to be aware of an important and devastating development in the so-called Pompeo "DARK" Act that requires your immediate involvement.
In fact, this article will include not one but TWO urgent action items. It's absolutely crucial you pick up the phone and call your Congressional representatives and urge them to vote down Pompeo's bill and the Fast Track bill.
Both of these dangerous pieces of legislation need your immediate action now so we can stop them in their tracks. This is a highly debated issue and it is one where your single call to a legislature can make the difference. We desperately need you to take action on this to preserve our food freedom.
Unless enough people take action, the ramifications of these two simultaneous corporate power grabs will have severe ramifications for our health, economy, and environmental protections—not to mention the loss of individual, state, and national rights.
Ben is the research director for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, an organization that's been around for several decades, focusing on an array of health, consumer, and environmental concerns, including everything from the safety of your food to financial protections to climate stability policies.
"When we saw the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) started to include terms that were binding on US domestic laws, including consumer protections and environmental protections, we decided we had to start working on trade policies," Ben explains.
"Because the trade policies were less and less about trade and more and more about the basic common sense safeguards we rely on every day.
I got started focusing on many of those concerns that motivate the current movement against Fast Track or Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I have been working as a research director for trade division for the last several years."
NAFTA's Hollow Promises
For some historical perspective, it's worth looking at the outcome of other free trade deals. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, was sold as an agreement that would raise living standards in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
It was widely promoted that it would usher in more jobs. One report said there'd be some 170,000 jobs created in the first two years. President Clinton said it would create 200,000 jobs immediately after passage. The result, however, has been the complete opposite.
"NAFTA actually incentivized the offshoring of US jobs. Not only did it impact those working in manufacturing facilities and factories, it also impacted the wages of pretty much anyone in the middle class," Ben explains.NAFTA essentially served as a Trojan horse. It was promoted as beneficial when in reality it decimated the economy in all three countries, especially those in the lower economic strata.
"Because as hundreds of thousands of decent paying middle class jobs were offshored, we saw an increase in middle class wage stagnation.
As those workers took a pay cut, not only did they bring home less of each pay check but they were competing more and more for non-offshorable service sector jobs such as in retail, hospitals, restaurants, etc.
That put down more pressure on wages for most of us, for the whole middle class. Most economists agree that trade has played some role in the stagnation of middle class wages and the increase in income inequality that we've seen in this country over the last couple decades."
Trans-Pacific Partnership Set Binding Rules That Supersede US Laws
Now we have the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), which involves the United States and 11 other countries around the Pacific Rim. Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam are some of the bigger countries involved.
There's also the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which is an agreement between the US and Europe.
"The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the new deal. But it's actually not new," Ben says. "Many of the terms take what's already in NAFTA and expand them further.
The TPP has about 29 chapters from what we can tell, and we can't see the contents of those chapters because it's been a very secretive agreement.
It's a step backward even from the degree of transparency exhibited by the George W. Bush administration, which published online the full draft text of the Free Trade Agreement that was under negotiation at that point.
In contrast, the Obama administration has refused, over years of investigations [to publish the TPP draft].
We're now in year six of negotiations with the TPP and still, the US public has no access to this agreement that would set binding constraints on a whole swath of domestic policies. That gets to the crux of the TPP.
There are about 29 chapters and only five of those actually pertain to traditional trade matters. Much of the rest would set binding rules on food safety standards, on access to medicine policies, on financial regulations, and even on internet freedom.
This agreement is sold under the guise of Free Trade but it goes far beyond trade with an impact on our daily lives in many ways."
How the TPP May Eliminate Possibility of GMO Labeling in US (and Elsewhere)
The TPP has a particularly dampening effect on US states' ability to regulate the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which is a strong initiative among many health freedom activists in this country.
One of the ways in which the TPP would bring us in the opposite direction of the current momentum toward GMO labeling is through one of the most controversial chapters of this deal.
It's a chapter that expands a parallel legal system for foreign corporations, known as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.
This parallel legal system empowers foreign corporations to go around domestic courts and challenge US federal and states policies—including GMO labeling policies—not before any court but before private international tribunals comprised of three private attorneys.
These three individuals will have a binding say on what the taxpayers would have to compensate that foreign firm for, in the event a corporation files a lawsuit. Ben explains:
"A foreign biotech firm could come in and say, 'We don't feel like we should be required to label GMO food. That contradicts these special rights that the TPP gives us as foreign investors.' And these are rights that go beyond what the domestic firms enjoy under US law.
On that basis, they could demand some millions of taxpayer dollars as compensation. Again, it would not be up to the court to make the decision on who's right on whether or not taxpayers have to pay for GMO labeling laws. It would be up to the three private lawyers in an international tribunal whose decision is not bound by any appeal."
TPP Doubles the Number of Corporations Empowered to Challenge US Policies
This is one of the more egregious elements of the TPP that has inspired much controversy, and for good reason. Senator Elizabeth Warren has stated it poses a threat to financial regulations. Environmental groups have pointed to the fact that investor-state challenges have already been launched against the phase-out of nuclear energy in Germany, and against the fracking moratorium in Canada. Philip Morris has also used this provision to attack anti-smoking policies in Uruguay and Australia.
We've already seen a surge in the usage of this parallel legal system for foreign corporations, which would be dramatically expanded via the TPP, empowering more than 9,000 additional firms doing business in the United States to challenge US federal and state policies—from financial regulations to food safety standards to GMO labels.
How might a judgment be enforced, should an international or foreign corporation be awarded damages by this parallel legal system? According to Ben, the tribunal's decision is one of the more binding elements of international law. How the federal government decides to collect the money owed to the corporation in question is up to the government. But in one way or another, the money will come from the tax payers...
"[The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)] system has actually existed for several decades, but it's only been used in significant quantity by foreign corporations in just the last several years, as they realized that this is a backdoor way of challenging regulations they're not able to challenge through the normal democratic process. In the first three decades of this parallel system, we saw a total of 50 cases brought from any corporation anywhere in the world. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, each of those years, we saw at least 50 cases brought...
Thankfully, the United States government has actually not seen a whole slew of these cases brought against it, largely because we've been signing these kinds of agreements thus far with countries that have very little investment in the United States. Countries like Nicaragua, where the number of Nicaraguan who own firms in the United States that could sue the US government is very tiny.
But with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in one fell swoop, we would double the number of firms that would be empowered to challenge US policies before these private international tribunals. At the same time that we're seeing this surge in corporate cases against governments, we would be doubling the number of corporations that could challenge our policies."
Why We MUST Oppose Fast Tracking
Fast Track is a bill (HR 1314) before Congress right now, and it delegates the Congress' trade authority, giving complete power to the US President to pursue not only the TPP, but any trade agreement the President might want to pursue. Fast Track would empower the President to negotiate and sign an agreement before Congress gets a vote, thereby locking in the contents. Once Congress does vote, it can only vote yay or nay on the deal in its entirety. No amendments are allowed. There's also limited debate, and the vote is expedited.
"Again, whether or not that would be justified for an agreement that was actually about trade, it's the debate we could have," Ben says. "But that's not where we're at. We're talking about the TPP, which would set binding rules on US domestic policies ranging from food safety to financial regulation to environmental protections. Any agreement that has such a binding impact on domestic policies ought to have its day before Congress. It ought to be openly debated and amended and the negotiations guided by our Congress. But Fast Track does the opposite."This is why it is so crucial for everyone reading this to contact your congressional representative, urging them to vote against Fast Track. According to Ben, Americans currently have a greater possibility to influence the fate of Fast Track and thus the TPP than most other legislation that will come before Congress this year, simply because Fast Track is so hotly contested within Congress itself.
"It's very high-profile. Members of Congress are listening to the constituents on this one because they face high political cost for voting for Fast Track," Ben says. "Since Fast Track is opposed – New York Times came out with a poll showing that Fast Track is opposed by 55 percent of the US public –most members of the Congress are very wary about what their constituents think about this, and it's a very tight vote.
We have the momentum, and the numbers are on the side of those who oppose Fast Track. But that's only going to continue being the case as long as they hear from the constituents... One representative just said, 'I've gotten hundreds, maybe even thousands of calls on [Fast Track] this year in my office, and 100 percent of them are no. How can I possibly vote 'yes'?' So, calling your member of Congress on this one really does make a difference."
How the TPP May Impact the American Job Market
At present, the US economy is already severely challenged. Unemployment statistics are highly manipulated, as they do not include people who have been out of work for extended periods of time, or have stopped looking for work altogether. Unemployment is also poised to get worse, especially with the integration of automation and exponential advancement of technology, which will lead to many more jobs disappearing in the near future. As noted by Ben, now is not the time to do anything that would incentivize more offshoring of US jobs, and yet that's exactly what the TPP does.
One leaked investment chapter includes special incentives for US firms that relocate their production abroad, to other TPP countries. That includes Vietnam, where the average minimum wage is less than 60 cents an hour. Independent unions are banned in Vietnam, and labor abuses are frequently sided by our own state department and labor department reports, including forced labor and child labor. The TPP places American workers into direct competition with those underpaid and abused Vietnamese workers, in addition to giving special privileges and incentives to corporations who decide to offshore their production to countries like Vietnam.
"We'd expect more of the kinds of offshoring of jobs that we've seen under the NAFTA model of trade for the last two decades," Ben warns. "As I mentioned, that is a concern not just to those of us who work in factories and workplaces that would be offshored; it's also a threat to all of us who would like to see our paychecks go up. Everyone who is concerned about middle class wage stagnation should be concerned when more middle class jobs are displaced, forcing more workers to compete for fewer jobs, putting downward pressure on the wages of the majority."
Take Immediate Action: Tell Your Congressman to Vote NO on Fast Track!
One of the main premises in preventive medicine is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's so much easier to stop this legislation than to figure out corrective remedies, which may be close to impossible if it gets enacted. At the time of this writing, Congress has slowed down the speed-train that is Fast Track, but that could change at any moment. On June 12 Congress voted No on the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill—one of two bills that must both pass to advance Trade Promotion Authority, giving the President authority to negotiate the TPP and other trade deals without Congressional oversight.1,2 As reported by The Intercept:3
"Democrats voted against TAA [Trade Adjustment Assistance], a measure long supported by liberals to provide job training and other assistance to workers negatively impacted by foreign trade, as a legislative maneuver to derail the effort to pass TPA [Trade Promotion Authority]. Both bills must be passed together so that they may be merged with the Senate version and sent to the president's desk...But, we're not out of the woods yet. The Fast Track bill can still be brought back for a vote, or they may vote on smaller portions based on whom might be swayed. At the end of the day, we must oppose any and all federal bills giving more power to corporations, or anything else that impairs our state and national sovereignty.
After TAA failed, Republicans quickly brought up a standalone trade promotion authority bill. The measure passed by a two-vote margin. But observers note the vote was a test to see where members stand. For a standalone trade promotion bill to advance on its own, the Senate would have to take up the entire package again."
So please, set a calendar reminder to contact your member of Congress first thing Monday, and tell them to oppose Fast Track in all its forms and future votes. (You do not need to contact your Senators, as the US Senate already approved Fast Track.) The time to apply pressure is right NOW. In addition to the source below, you can also find contact information for your state's Congressman via StopFastTrack.com, and ExposetheTPP.org.
- Find your congressman by clicking this link
- Set a calendar reminder to call your congressman TOMORROW
- Write down what you will say. You can use facts in this article, but tell them to oppose Fast Track; those are the KEY words you want to say
- Rehearse what you will say
- Remember to be respectful
Pompeo's 'DARK' Act Just Got Worse!
The second action item I urge you to get involved with is the so-called Pompeo "DARK" Act, which has been ratchet up yet another notch. This is yet another dangerous corporate power grab that must be stopped, and we need all hands on deck to do it. If you've never taken action on this issue before, I urge you to do so now. We need every single American who cares about this issue to make their opinion known very clearly to their federal representatives.
As you may have heard, the federal Pompeo bill (HR 1599, "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act") would trump state law and strip states of the right to pass GMO food labeling bills. But it gets worse. A revised version4 of the bill has been brought forth, and it not only preempts all state laws to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, it also preempts any and all state and local regulation of all GE crops, and weakens federal oversight. In short, it's a Monsanto dream come true, and a nightmare for the rest of us.
HR 1599—An 'Anti-Democracy, Anti-Consumer, Anti-Environment Mega Bill'
As noted by the Center for Food Safety (CFS),5 the latest changes to Pompeo's bill "create an anti-democracy, anti-consumer, anti-environment mega-bill." On June 15, CFS announced its strong opposition to the revised bill, which has now been greatly expanded, making it unlawful for any state or local government to take restrictive action against GE crops in any way. Not only would it nullify existing GMO regulation, it also prohibits future laws from being considered. CFS writes:
"'The Monsanto Protection Act is back, and it's even worse than before. This bill would strip away a state or local government's basic rights of local control, and hands the biotech industry everything it wants on a silver platter. No Member of Congress that cares about the rights and concerns of his or her constituents should support this bill,' said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety.
Earlier versions of Rep. Pompeo's bill, known as the 'Denying Americans the Right to Know Act' or DARK Act, preempted states' rights to require the labeling of GE foods, and this version continues that: It would overturn state labeling laws that have passed in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine, and stop any future laws from passing.
CFS has been a champion of GE food labeling for over two decades, and in the past two years, over 30 states have introduced laws requiring the labeling of GE foods. 64 countries around the world require GE food labeling and have not reported higher food costs as a result. Last month, a federal court in Vermont resoundingly rejected industry's challenges to Vermont's labeling law, scheduled to take effect next year, becoming the first court to conclude that states do have the right to label GE foods under current law.
However, that's not all the bill would do: while keeping language preempting labeling, the new Monsanto Protection Act would also forbid states and local governments from any sort of oversight of GE crops, even when the federal government has declined or failed to regulate them."
Take Immediate Action: Tell Your Congressman to Vote NO on Pompeo's Bill, HR1599
We need everyone to put pressure on your federal representatives, and demand they vote NO on the Pompeo bill. We need to do everything we possibly can to prevent this bill from passing. Please, take action now! Again, set a calendar reminder to contact your member of Congress first thing Monday. Tell your representative to support consumer and state rights, and reject Rep. Pompeo's bill, H.R. 1599. (A list of all the sponsors of Pompeo's bill can be found on the congressional website6.)
The Pompeo Bill Aims to Legalize Transgenic Food Fraud
It's important to recognize that not labeling transgenic food is fraud, so the Pompeo bill is essentially just trying to legalize it. As an example, salmon spliced with eel is no longer the salmon you would expect when seeing "salmon" written on a label. Not disclosing this fact is fraud because it is counter to a consumer's expectation. The burden should not be placed on the traditional salmon fishermen to get their nature-provided fish certified as GMO-free; the burden of truthful declaration of what the product actually is should be placed on the patent holder and producer of these transgenic organisms.
The same logic should apply to crops. Research7 has shown that there are significant compositional differences between genetically engineered (GE) soybeans and non-GE varieties, for example. Contrary to industry claims, the study found that they also differ in terms of nutritional quality, with organic soybeans having the healthiest nutritional profile. According to the authors, "This study rejects that genetically modified soy is "substantially equivalent" to non-GM soybeans."
For close to 20 years the American public has been exposed to these largely experimental, untested foods. The FDA claims GMOs can be presumed safe, and that there was an "overwhelming scientific consensus" backing up their decision to categorize GMOs as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) back in 1992. Yet the evidence shows that is a bold-faced lie. Steven Druker reveals this and much more in his book Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public.
Scientists have also taken a firm and public stand against this oft-repeated lie. On January 24, a statement signed by 300 scientists, researchers, physicians and scholars was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe,8 unequivocally asserting that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.
Moreover, the paper, titled "No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety," states that the claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is in actuality "an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated." The paper also notes that such a claim "is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue."
It's Time to Take Decisive Action
I urge you to take action on these two simultaneous issues, as either one is a proverbial death knell to democracy and freedom in the US. Set a calendar reminder to contact your member of Congress, and let them know you will not accept a Yes vote on HR 1599 (Pompeo's bill, aka the DARK act); nor will you accept a Yes vote on Fast Track. Let them know they will not serve another term if they vote in favor of either of these two issues.
We Will NOT Stand for a Global Corporate Takeover
Understand this: what's happening here is that multination corporations are trying to preempt all of local rights. It's bad enough when they do it at the federal level (like the DARK act, which I'll discuss in a moment) but it's ridiculous when they do it as part of the New World Order strategy—essentially creating a corporate king of the world, where corporations hold all the power over citizens.
While Republicans say they want to protect state rights, they're sponsoring federal preemption to provide the corporate masters what they want – even though it breaks the Republicans' supposed principles. Democratic President Obama is pushing the same corporate desires to prevent sovereign nations to operate how they want. Corporations want to countries to be at the mercy of the World Trade Organization and other global legal entities powered by corporate interests.
This is a way to defeat states and national sovereignty. Let's say the US has some pollution law that affect mining / fracking restrictions. Cambodia likely does not, and will pollute the world to create products for the US that the US could not produce on their own because of the restrictions... Another example: Let's say the US wants to export its excess chlorine bleached chicken. Germany would not have the right to deny this chicken, or to even state that this chicken came from the US, because disclosing the country of origin has been determined as discriminatory by the World Trade Organization.
The whole idea is to remove all obstacles standing in the way of corporations doing business in whatever way they choose.
What's even sadder is that they're using the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) as a carrot for all those opposed to the bill. Basically, TAA admits that jobs will be lost, "but hey, we'll retrain them to do something else!" The aim is to enslave desperate nations to the rich corporations who are partnering with rich countries. But the rich countries themselves become pawns to these global policies, ultimately granting full control to corporate globalism...
It's mass profit industrialization; corporations take everything they can as quickly as they can get it. Political trades are made through lobbying money from those same corporate interests. They are hell bent on getting these trade bills through, and keeping much of this hidden in the process. The only thing stopping them is public awareness of what is happening, and letting our leaders know we're well aware of these corporate power plays and won't stand for it. Politicians are people, afraid of other people. Ultimately, saying "We won't stand for it!" is the only leverage we have left.