Fiction is the answer to real world issues. It’s not apparent at first, but if we turn to fiction―particularly science fiction―then we are offered glimpses into what the future can look like. Utopian societies share very common themes, none of these themes are corporate control, environmental destruction or unsafe food additives; universal healthcare is a very common trait of future utopias. One of the common themes is the complete jettison of money, and economics being based directly on resources instead of the symbolic intermediary we are becoming acutely aware is corruptible, but that’s a conversation for another day. My argument for now is these utopian ideals: harmony with the environment, food security and scientific progress. Or, more importantly, how governments seem to be conspiring along a patently different course.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a demonstration of just such a direction. Regulation in America and Europe is very different. America has notoriously low controls on environmental pollution and food quality: we’re talking about growth hormones, pesticides, and the default position on chemical safety (in the US, chemicals are deemed safe until proven otherwise; the opposite is true in Europe). Increasingly, information is becoming a crime (I’m looking at you, Monasanto¹), and GM foods are basically always allowed. The US employment laws also protect employees a lot less, in fact if a company could place its jobs in the US instead of the UK it will tend to prefer to do so, because it has similar benefits as outsourcing to India. (This isn’t meant to be a diatribe against the US.) The basic goal of the TTIP is to standardise the regulation between the US and Europe.
Standardisation and bilateral agreements tend to appear as good things. Working together is often advertised as progress. So here’s the issue: the standard level of regulation will be the lowest common denominator. The US has the lowest common denominator regulation on employment legislation as well as environmental and food control, so Europe is going to deregulate to the dangerous American levels. This means that US food products that are illegal here, now, will soon be flooding our market and outcompeting the producers who keep their food to some resemblance of a standard.
I assume the pressure for such a trade agreement comes from the American food industry. Although, American will have benefits as it can increase its market to the EU and EU-based companies can start outsourcing to
India America, the fact that the tendencies are going to be for deregulation to American standards (instead of holding America to a higher standard) smacks of a multibillion (insert preferred currency) drawing the map of ‘progress’ for us. The ‘benefit’ for America will be more low paid jobs, indicative of third world economies, which is a complete reversal of what the American dream and economics are touted as being about. Ironically Unfortunately, this is the very basis of most dystopian fictions. Corporations have control, which means they can lobby for worse employment standards and passable products being held to a lower level of scrutiny. This makes the average person’s life worse.
The TTIP is an ideal example of what it means to not be looking at the long game. True patriotism, to any country², is about seeing the future, wanting the best, and setting a course in the right direction. We can only assume that patriots want to aim for utopian ideals: safety, cleanliness, comfort, environmentalism, psychological wellbeing, protection. But the TTIP has a projected course in exactly the opposite direction.
1 – I’m talking about Monsanto fighting labelling GMO foods. But my opinion is not as clear cut as ‘Labelling should be allowed’. Labelling, I think, would constitute misinformation because people have tied up the term “GMO” with environmental degradation, which is simply mistaken. GMO foods can and have saved and improved lives. Perhaps the labelling should actually talk about farming practices: new farms; pesticide per hectare; chemicals used etc. This is difficult, though, because big companies use multiple sources.
2 – or patriotism to the planet; recognition that you are an Earthling and your country of birth is defined by artificial boundaries. Be proud of more than your country. Be proud of Earth.
Because you have to start somewhere: Wikipedia.
It is about more than food and the environment. It is about my NHS and banking regulation: The Independent