50 Years of Conflict and Convergence
Chapter 5: Food policy moves to center stage in transatlantic relations (1986 to 2013)
As overt transatlantic tensions over farm policies have receded in recent years the vacuum has been filled by several contentious issues involving food policy. These issues have emerged in the past two decades as a major source of trade conflicts between the US and the EU. The resulting trade tensions first gained prominence in the late 1980s, in particular over the use of hormones in animal production, and have been perpetuated by ongoing disagreements over the rinsing of chicken carcasses and the approval process for acceptance of biotech foods. Issues related to food quality and labeling, and to the way in which animals are treated and crops grown have added fuel to the regulatory conflicts. Several factors are involved in this move of food policy towards center stage. Perhaps the most significant of these is the rise in the level of public concern, particularly in the EU, over matters of food safety. This has had an impact on the political possibilities for resolution of regulatory tensions. In addition, the reduction of more visible trade impediments such as tariffs has laid bare the non-tariff barriers previously hidden below the surface. But it is possible that these regulatory issues themselves would not have become major trade tensions without significant shifts in the pattern of trade and in the structure of the food industry.
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