Poison chalice

Brexit supporters are convinced that the UK will not lack for trading partners once its European neighbours have left the shop. While the more imaginative of the idealists predict a nostalgic return to the time when the Commonwealth provided all that Britain needed, what are now mostly third-world countries are unlikely to be the answer as far as basic or even non-basic needs are concerned.

The US seems to be on a lot of lips, but why has it never been a significant trading partner of the EU? The answer is that it offers little. Most of the manufactured products come from China, and the only made-in-US items are agricultural produce, which unfortunately cannot be sold to Europe as it falls short of EU standards.

Genetically modified food is widely consumed in the States and labels do not even have to mention its presence. Many chemicals and food supplements banned in Europe (and most other first-world countries) are used in the US. Livestock is pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics that have been earmarked as potentially dangerous to the consumer. And best not to mention animal welfare with permanently tethered sows and overcrowded feedlots that would make any animal welfare activist scream. So it is hardly surprising that last week it was acknowledged that nearly all the wines made in the US have dangerously high levels of glyphosate, thanks to Roundup, a pesticide made by Monsanto. The highest concentrations are in northern California, home of the Mondavi, Gallo and Beringer brands. Why worry? All wines contain chemicals and pesticides. Yes, but glyphosate, according to the World Health Organisation, can cause cancer, destroy intestinal bacteria, affect the nervous system and damage the liver and the kidneys.

So just in case we did not already have sufficient reasons for turning our backs on US wines as a consequence of Trump's threats of banning European wines from the US, let's just forget they even exist. On a straight value-for-money scale, they are not very good anyway.