A proposed trade agreement between Canada and the European Union could make it harder for public institutions like schools, hospitals and universities to buy local food.
Next week, officials from the EU and Canada meet in Ottawa for the fifth round of negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The agreement would affect goods and services across many sectors, including agriculture. It would allow Canadian companies to export to the EU without meeting EU standards and regulations, and vice versa.
The National Farmers' Union launched a campaign against CETA yesterday, warning it will make it even harder for Canadian farms to stay viable.
"CETA would mean many changes, but none more negative than its effect to extinguish farmers' rights to save and re-use seeds," stated NFU president Terry Boehm in a press release. "With powers such as those proposed in the CETA, seed companies will gain significant power over who farms and how."
In a recent interview with PublicValues.ca, Boehm called the agreement "more draconian than WTO or NAFTA" and said the chapter on intellectual property provisions means that if a farmers crop is contaminated with a patented seed variety, they could have equipment and property seized and bank accounts frozen.
Herb Barbolet, a professor at Simon Fraser University who researches food and agriculture policy, said he thinks the treaty is "a real threat."
"I'm amazed that the European Union would agree to it, that's a surprise. The attempt seems to be to make it more iron-clad than the previous agreements."
"The fear is that it's worse than all the others in terms of local procurement," said Barbolet. "What finally comes out could be completely different."
"The bottom line is we don't know. Anybody interested in this issue should be screaming at their MPs."
Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.