‘We are defending your products:’ Emails reveal coordination between US government, industry in foreign trade disputes

By Johnathan Hettinger and Carey Gillam

Against the backdrop of a fierce battle between the United States and Mexico over the safety of certain farming products, newly obtained government communications provide fresh evidence of how powerful corporate interests often drive US officials to meddle in foreign affairs.

The records are the latest to emerge that show how tightly the US government works with global crop and chemical companies to try to block other governments around the world from placing restrictions on pesticides and, as in the case of Mexico, on certain genetically modified crops.

The US is currently embroiled in a bitter trade battle with Mexico, but also has waged war against Thailand and the European Union over efforts to ban pesticides that are key to the corporate profits of companies such as Bayer and Syngenta.

The newly obtained emails add to earlier revelations, also found in government records, by providing greater detail about how the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the federal agency responsible for American trade policy, works to benefit agrochemical companies while shrugging off evidence presented by foreign governments that pesticides are posing dire risks to the safety of their environment and their citizens.

Similarly, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are shown in the emails helping push back against countries that try to ban pesticides linked to human health issues and the demise of crucial species.

The latest batch documents were obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity and provided to The New Lede (TNL).

“Trade now poses one of the biggest barriers to keeping pesticides in wide use in the US, and pesticide companies are taking notice,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The US can’t keep using pesticides at this rate if other countries won’t buy our contaminated food, so the focus has now turned to quashing any attempt by smaller countries to protect their citizens and their food supply.”

“The push is coming from the US government but it’s at the behest of pesticide companies,” he said. “It’s basically soft imperialism with our government as the puppet and large corporations pulling the strings.”