Food safety after Brexit

April 2017

No doubt some GM-Free Scotland readers voted against Brexit due to concerns about the food quality free-for-all it might lead to.

Echoing such doubts, Angus Roberson, Scottish National Party MP for Moray, reminded Parliament that
"The European Union, which we are still part of, has among the highest food safety standards anywhere in the world. The United States on the other hand, is keen to have health systems that are fully open to private competition and it wants to export genetically modified organisms ... ". 
Brexit will remove our current protection from substandard food imports, especially from America.

What we mean by 'substandard' food was spelled out recently by food journalist, Joanna Blythman. American food may contain 82 pesticides banned in the EU, and higher pesticide residue levels than are permitted here. It may have several food additives banned in the EU, meat treated with disinfectant washes in lieu of good hygiene, products from livestock treated with artificial hormones and antibiotics and fed animal by-products, and of course unlabelled genetically modified foods and food-like substances. (Also, check out FEEDING DISEASE - December 2016.)

Britain's leading GM crop researchers at The Sainsbury Laboratory, who believe GM is so safe that there are "no hazards to regulate", already see Brexit as a golden opportunity to follow the US lax approach to GMO regulation.

Monsanto was equally quick to realise Brexit will make the UK ripe for picking. The Company is well aware that a whole new generation of 'foodie' young consumers has arrived since the UK public rejected GM foods in the 1990s, and all the new-comers need is to (you guessed it) be educated about GM.

The biotech company has, accordingly, appointed no less than a former World Bank communication strategist, Vance Crowe, as 'Director of Millennial Engagement'. Indeed, Mr. C. has already been busy touring Britain educating anyone who'll listen to him on the wonders of GM.

Back in Parliament, MP Robertson asked Prime Minister May "Will the Prime Minister tell President Trump that she is not prepared to lower our food and safety standards or to open our health systems up for privatisation? Or does she believe that this is a price worth paying for a UK-US trade deal?"

Prime Minister May replied "We will be looking for a UK-US trade deal that improves trade between our two countries, that will bring prosperity and growth to this country and that will ensure that we can bring jobs to this country as well. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, in doing that we will put UK interests and UK values first."

The backdrop to May's UK-US trade deal includes some disturbing contradictions.

While President Trump slashes funding for the US Environmental Protection Agency by a whopping 31%, a new UN report details the links between chronic exposure to pesticides and several diseases including cancer, developmental disorders and fertility problems. It also points out that excessive use of aggressively and unethically marketed pesticides can damage the ecological systems that support food production. The report calls for more to be done nationally to strengthen existing weak regulations on the use and safety of these chemicals to protect the health of populations and the environments they depend on.

COMMENT - Disease of his people is not, it seems, a priority for the President.

While nearly 200 countries continue to strive to meet their commitments to cut carbon emissions as agreed in 2015, President Trump has swept them away. His aim is to boost America's oil and coal production to "reverse government intrusion and cancel job-killing regulations".

COMMENT - The people-killing carbon emissions are not a priority for the President.

While over 120 UN states start negotiations towards a legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons, the UK representative joined the US ambassador in a protest outside the room.

COMMENT - Aligning the UK with the Trump regime is clearly more important than preserving life and protecting our world.


Indeed, May-Trump prosperity, growth and jobs could come at a considerable price for some of us now and for most or all of future generations.

Unless we're very much mistaken, UK interests and UK values are going to be re-aligned with America's interests and values, so as to enable trade. President Trump will not be told anything about food and safety standards, and yes the Prime Minister believes your health is a price worth paying to generate growth, prosperity and jobs.

To put things in perspective, some of those promised jobs, growth and prosperity US-style will derive from Big Food whose best profits come from selling you unhealthy food, some will derive from poorly-regulated polluting industries, and some will come from Big Health Care whose profits are delivered courtesy of your ill-health.

America isn't going to do any trade deals unless it's given a level playing field. There's little doubt that substituting US light-touch regulation for European red-tape will mean a flow of substandard food into the country and a race to the bottom for everyone at every point in the supply chain.

It looks like the only safe and healthy (and therefore truly prosperous) future for the people depends on food sovereignty.

We shouldn't have to go that far, but what better case for Scottish independence?


  • House of Commons Hansard 25/1/17, question by Agnus Robertson (Moray) (SNP)
  • Monsanto man makes case for GMOs, The Scottish Farmer, January 2017
  • Colin Todhunter, Monsanto's Communications Guru To Visit the UK,, 7.02.17
  • Joanna Blythman, Is chlorinated chicken about to hit our shelves after new US trade deal? Guardian 29.01.17
  • More GM potatoes, Thin Ice Issue 43, March 2017
  • Donal Trump Budget Slashes Funds for EPA and State Department, New York Times, 15.03.17
  • Trump signs order ripping up climate change policies, Metro, 29.03.17
  • Phasing out harmful use of pesticides, The Lancet, 18.07.17
  • The Ban Treaty discussions have started, Scottish CND, 28.03.17
Photo: Creative Commons

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