Food is a complicated business with lots of politics, as revealed by recent US State Department cables. And yes, the cables – with about 2000 of more than 250,000 released so far by WikiLeaks, the Guardian and other media organizations – do include two mentions of tuna! But no albacore yet.
The nations that are net importers of food are rightly concerned about rising food costs. Spain is the world’s second largest per-capita consumer of fish, after Japan – and is a net importer of fish products.
A report on the impact of rising food prices reads: “Within the Doha context, Spain also wants continued EU protection for canned TUNA imports. (Note: In the Doha round, canned TUNA is treated as an industrial product.)” The Doha round is a series of World Trade Organization negotiations that began in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks as an effort reduce trade barriers. “But wealthy nations resist ending protections for their agricultural industries,” explains YaleGlobal.
The tuna reference is very brief, and the cable reveals other US and Spanish concerns: “The U.S.’s most significant market access issue with Spain is that Spain as an EU member does not import American biotech corn even though Spain is a biotech corn producer. This is because U.S. corn exporters cannot guarantee that American corn shipments do not contain biotech varieties that have not been approved by the EU. There are approved biotech varieties in the EU and Spain, but not all the varieties that have been approved in the U.S. have been approved in Europe. Spain’s main market access issue in the U.S. is gaining permission to export specialty ham products.”
Europeans are typically more fussy about biotech crops than US diners are.
Another cable about Brazil mentions tuna and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The cable does not specify the Atlantic blue fin tuna, under threat, versus sustainable varieties such albacore. (Note, all St Jude tuna is sustainable albacore.) The international agreement between governments has an aim of ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
The US also extols the pleasures of the Mediterranean diet – which includes fish. And in the Pacific part of the world, you can make albacore tuna part of your Mediterranean diet!