Industry leaders have said they are ‘extremely concerned’ about a Government move to exclude the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) from considering the impact of agri-food trade on human health.
This week, Trade Minister Lord Grimstone tabled an amendment to the Trade Bill which says the Trade Secretary must request advice from the TAC about trade deals, except on matters which relate to human life or health.
Food and farming alliance Sustain has warned the amendment will prevent the TAC from being able to explore the impact of future trade agreements on antimicrobial resistance, diets or pesticide residues.
The group’s chief executive, Kath Dalmeny, said: “We already know other nations are actively lobbying the UK to lower its regulations on pesticides, antibiotics, junk food marketing and health labels on food.
“If the TAC is banned from advising Government on these matters, who will be defending our health? And if this is not being picked up in trade legislation, where is it?
“This is a gaping hole in the Government’s trade policy which could result in worsening diets, pesticide residues in food and further rises in lethal antimicrobial resistance.”
Lord Grimstone also tabled further amendments to the legislation which would allow Ministers to review and potentially shut down the commission within three years.
Baroness McIntosh, who served as a Defra Shadow Minister in the House of Commons before taking up a seat in the Lords, said: “We welcome the move the Government has made in making the Trade and Agriculture Commission statutory.
“But alarm bells are ringing about the possibility of a review and a possible termination of the role of the TAC even before the first three years are up.
“It begs the whole question of the Government’s commitment to the TAC.”
Further Government amendments to the Bill will broaden the membership of the commission to include trade, plant and animal health, animal welfare and environmental experts.
But public health and consumer interests will still not be represented.
A separate amendment from Liberal Democrat Lord Purvis which would give Parliament a greater role in developing trade policy and scrutinising agreements was passed by 308 votes to 261.