Have you heard of TTIP? Probably not, but that’s because the people behind it are keeping it quiet. A deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has the potential to seriously harm the standards of food production and farming across Britain and Europe, and it’s being discussed behind closed doors. Our founder Ben explains why he’s signed up to Business Against TTIP and why you should be in the know about its threat to our food.
Farmer Andy Clarke’s cows at Park Farm in Kent.
As a Farmdrop shopper, I care about being able to provide my family with fresh food straight from the farm. I care about being happy in the knowledge that everyone on that farm cares deeply about the quality of their produce, welfare of their animals and looking after our environment. There aren’t many spare seconds aboard the good ship Farmdrop, but have I taken the time to read and sign up to the Business Against TTIP campaign this week? Absolutely, yes.
Take a minute to learn a bit on what’s wrong with TTIP and how it’s a threat to our food from the experts, including Jamie Oliver. For anyone who cares about tasty, healthy food, our independent food producers and environment - this is unequivocally really bad news.
So, what is TTIP?
It is a free trade deal and investment treaty between the USA and the European Union, currently under negotiation (in secret), which would cut tariffs and lower regulatory barriers to make trade easier between the two markets. If it did happen it would be the biggest trade agreement of its nature, having an impact on one quarter of global trade. Principally, TTIP means ‘harmonising’ with US food standards, in other words - the UK and Europe moving to US standards around factory farming methods.
What’s wrong with TTIP?
My principal issue with this is that this US food system is anything but harmonious but rather extremely harmful. The US ranks terribly in terms of obesity and diabetes versus the UK, and is far below the UK and pretty much all other EU member states in terms of health rankings. The US allows for lower levels of food standards where practices such as chicken produced intensively with heavy use of antibiotics and cattle implanted with hormones to speed up muscle growth are acceptable.
We need to get further away from a US style food system - not closer to it. Have a read of Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery and Isabel Oakeshott or The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan - both succinctly cover this subject in ways that’ll turn what you thought you knew about food on its head. Factory farming means such poor animal and plant husbandry that huge quantities of chemicals are administered, which in turn means unhealthy and tasteless food.
The other reason I’ve signed up is that the UK government seems unwilling to accept that our food chain badly needs fixing in the first place. As we recently saw with Jamie’s sugar tax getting such short shrift and the misjudged emphasis of helping massive UK producers export abroad rather than helping smaller, sustainable UK producers find domestic markets, we need to pipe up.
The system needs to be simplified and re-localised. The price of my milk should have nothing to do with global milk prices, but simply what enables farmers (such as our farmers at the family run Hinxden Dairy) to run a sustainable business. And on a basic, almost instinctual level, anything that attempts to make food more global should be seriously scrutinised. It’s ideas about food that should be global rather than its physical movement. Whilst I will of course keep eating bananas and lemons (shipped, not flown, and with complete transparency on where they’re from), we badly need to bring producers and consumers closer together geographically and get back to eating ‘ingredients’ rather than processed foods.
As an entrepreneur with a huge and important mission, I can’t stand red tape. When in doubt, I think of my own kitchen table. I want delicious seasonal food from brilliant local producers - the eating of which will keep my family happy and healthy, and our farmers and countryside in fine fettle too. That’s why all of my food comes from Farmdrop. TTIP attacks this notion of sustainable food at pretty much every level. So please join me and 3.3 million others in protest - get involved and spread the word.
Want to know more? Channel 4’s Jon Snow explains all in TTIP: What’s next?