Conclusion

Within the discourse on food safety and the TPP, the journalists and TPP opponents quoted here assume that imported foods, which will increase due to lower agricultural tariffs, threaten food safety in Japan. The relationship between agricultural tariffs and food safety, however, is not explained in further detail. This is true for the discourse from 2011

to 2013, as well as in 2015. Newspaper articles and critiques by TPP opponents are mainly directed at the US and Japanese governments. Only the CUJ’s critique on the TPP targets the global free trade system as a whole, but also characterizes it as being dominated by the USA. Food risks are assigned to the USA, although the TPP is not a bilateral PTA between Japan and the USA. The anti-TPP rhetoric easily relates to existing anti-American sentiments and earlier discourses on the liberalization of agricultural trade within Japanese society. It is argued that by not joining the TPP, risks to food safety could be diminished. The actor held responsible for securing food safety is the Japanese government, who is being urged not to sign the TPP, or at least to negotiate more favourable conditions.

The main difference between the discourse on food safety issues under the TPP between 2011 and 2013 and in October 2015 is that food safety issues became less important. GM food and pesticides were no longer mentioned after the TPP deal was concluded. This is due to the release of the TPP’s SPS chapter and other information about the results of the TPP negotiations, according to which Japan’s food safety and food labelling standards will not change. However, so far, neither the mass media nor TPP opponents have addressed the problem of GMOs in the TPP document or the problem of ‘science’ and the idea of the dominance of economic feasibility over health protection; but these issues are closely related to the growing influence of TNCs under the TPP. Representatives of TNCs are already involved in the setting of food safety standards by participating in meetings of international organizations such as Codex Alimentarius.[1] Their representatives are also involved in negotiation processes on food safety standards and assessment committees in Japan. Here, representatives from the food industry are generally in the majority and a lack of transparency is still quite common.[2] Even if representatives from the food industry are not members of these committees, they have a lot of power because the definition of threshold levels and admission procedures for GMOs is often based on ‘scientific’ data provided by TNCs, because only they have the resources to afford the commissioning of their own studies.[3] With the ISDS provisions and the TPP’s shift from health protection to economic feasibility with regard to SPS measures, the power of the already influential TNCs in the food and agricultural sector will continue to grow. Thus, instead of juxtaposing Japan and the USA in the Japanese TPP debate, more attention should be paid to the role of transnational corporations and the private (food) sector.

  • [1] Reiher, ‘Lebensmittelstandards als “Black Box”’.
  • [2] Maclachlan, Consumer Politics, 185.
  • [3] Interview with Takahashi Kentaro, Tokyo, 2015.
 
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