Throughout the country, there is a rising movement that hopes to make regulations on American agriculture mirror that of the European Union.
It would be a toxic mistake.
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have teamed up to introduce the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTA), supported by a set of green environmental NGOs with the goal of copy-pasting the EU’s agriculture regulations, to the detriment of American farmers and consumers.
The EU recently released its “Fit for 55” climate package, intending to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the years to come. This is in line with the “European Green Deal,” ripped directly from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” which fortunately hasn’t yet become law. In an effort to reduce CO2 emissions, Europe blames the agricultural sector and uses the opportunity to pursue other ideological goals of green groups.
A cornerstone of the EU’s continuous ambitions to revamp food regulation is the “Farm to Fork Strategy,” known as F2F. This is a roadmap for a set of package bills set to hit the EU’s legislature in the coming years that will aim to reduce pesticides by 50 percent by 2030 and increase organic food production to 25 percent by 2030 (it is currently at about 8 percent).
For years, the EU has resisted a trade deal with the United States over its caricaturistic view of American agriculture. We often hear of “chlorine chicken” and “hormone beef,” used by Europeans to stigmatize American food imports. During the negotiations of the TTIP agreement under the Obama administration, the deal largely failed because of misinformation related to just that. Under the Trump administration, Brussels persisted in using agriculture to block ongoing trade negotiations.
The Biden administration could take things a step further in the wrong direction, by simply matching the food rules with those of the EU and its member states, much to the detriment of US farmers and consumers.
One target of the EU has been neonicotinoids, also known as neonics. These insecticides are essential for farmers looking to protect their crops and avoid soaring food prices as a result of insect infestations. All relevant international regulatory agencies have deemed these products as safe — but not in Europe. And now, America’s green and environmental groups want to take the European approach: they want these insecticides banned because they “kill the bees”.
Even readers unfamiliar with agriculture regulations have probably heard about “bee-harming” pesticides, despite it being the furthest thing from the truth. For years, activists have attempted to blame genetic modification for the phenomenon of declining bee populations. But while the narrative persists, it’s most important to point out what is true: the bees aren’t dying.
Across the world, bee populations are actually increasing, including in the United States. Yes, there can be regional declines, but those are cyclical and have no impact on the overall increase of bee populations. Even The Washington Post has pointed out that the so-called “Bee-pocalypse” is a myth.
Fortunately, U.S. officials have been pushing back against the idea that American agriculture needs to be put in the penalty box. In a virtual appearance in the European Parliament last month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack defended America’s innovative and efficient agriculture sector and warned of copying Europe’s restrictionist view. He pointed out that Europe’s adversity to pesticides and modern technology in agriculture creates a trade imbalance between Europe and the United States. An imbalance that should, by all indications, be challenged further at the level of the World Trade Organization.
What is clear is that proposed bills like PACTPA would go in the opposite direction, by allowing the United States to become more like Europe. For consumers, that would mean less food safety and security, more exposure to harmful natural pests, rising prices, and also rising government expenditure on farm subsidies, which Europeans have already been addicted to for too long.
If the U.S. wants to follow a good example on agriculture, Europe is the last place they should look.