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WTO Rejects U.S. Appeal of COOL Ruling

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The World Trade Organization has rejected a U.S. appeal of its decision that country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on meat unfairly discriminates against meat imports and give the advantage to domestic meat products.

The final ruling launches a WTO process to determine the level of retaliatory tariffs Canada and Mexico can impose on the U.S., and the U.S. will have to revise or repeal the COOL law in order to avoid such sanctions. Opponents of COOL are hoping for a swift repeal, while proponents are saying it’s not yet time to act.

The WTO report released in October was the second time that body has ruled against the U.S. in the dispute. After passing mandatory COOL rules in 2008, the U.S. amended COOL in 2012 following an earlier WTO ruling against it.

Last November, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the 2014 National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention that there is no additional regulatory fix for COOL that would be consistent with U.S. law as it exists and would also satisfy the WTO.

Lawmakers have been calling for COOL to be repealed if it was found non-compliant since last summer. Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has said that “mandatory COOL for meat is a failed experiment which should be repealed.”

In a letter to Congress sent last fall, the COOL Reform Coalition wrote that U.S. industries would be expected to lose billions of dollars if retaliation is allowed.

“Given the negative impact on the U.S. manufacturing and agriculture economies, we respectfully submit that it would be intolerable for the United States to maintain, even briefly, a rule that has been deemed non-compliant by the WTO,” the letter read.

North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter said Monday that the latest ruling should lay any doubts to rest that COOL is a trade barrier, and he urged Congress to repeal COOL “once and for all.”

But Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, argued that “since the process is ongoing and we do not yet know the level of possible sanctions, if any, it is premature for Congress to intervene.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson also thinks there’s still a future for COOL on meat.

“As we have seen in other disputes, once decisions are handed down, WTO members often work together to find a solution that will work for them,” he said. “In this case, such a solution must involve continuation of a meaningful country-of-origin labeling requirement.”

Johnson added that Congress might have a role to play in dealing with COOL “once the administration has worked with our trading partners following today’s decision if a statutory modification is deemed warranted by the administration, but the time for action is not now.”

Consumer groups such as Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety said that the WTO Appellate Body’s ruling violates consumers’ right to know where their food comes from.

© Food Safety News
  • J T

    I DEMAND to know where my meat comes from, meaning where it is born, where it is raised, where it is slaughtered, and where it is processed. Whoever is against these common sense measures HAS SOMETHING TO HIDE. Anyone who is against this labeling is proof that this labeling is NEEDED.

    • Steve Graves

      ^^^^ Ditto!! ^^^^

    • Karyn Errington

      Cut down consumption of meet and buy local.

  • This is just the latest example of how Free Trade treaties undermine American sovereignty and democracy by replacing laws made by representatives accountable to the citizens with global governance via treaty law and international tribunals. The politicians and lobbyists promoting these treaties commit treason against our constitutional republic.

    • Trade laws can undermine national laws (hence concern about TPP), but in this case, this is about countries working out trade conflicts. The US doesn’t have to participate, but it does, because to not do so is not in the US’s best interest.

      Where the real issue is, is Congressional members being too quick to react.

      • Do you think it is in our interest to repeal the COOL law, as proposed by Sec of Agriculture? I WANT country of origin information on food labels and ALL product labels!

        • Jim Richardson

          I also want COOL labeling, but respectfully I must point out that treaties are considered the law of the land under the Constitution, and are negotiated and ratified by our elected representatives. Therefore saying any of this amounts to “treason against our Constitutional republic” is a non-sequitur. America did not give up sovereignty, we entered into a flawed treaty as a sovereign nation. Our options are to elect representatives who can get it changed or repealed. But the entire process has been Constitutional, even though we may disagree with the political outcomes.

  • Jeff Adams

    DONT BUY THEIR MEAT. USE GRASS FED COWS AND USE LOCAL FARMS.

    • kevin gudmundson

      does the us not have meat inspectors to make sure there food is safe?????

      • J T

        We have meat “inspectors,” that mainly look at documents and maybe glance at quickly moving meat down the conveyor line.

      • KarenCall

        Define “safe”. 100 Scientific Reasons to Not Eat Animal Flesh (really, it should be called “100 Scientific Reasons to Not Eat Animal Products”, as it has studies for all of the above):

        http://badassu.net/100-scientific-reasons-to-not-eat-meat/

    • J T

      Riiiight, because it’s SO easy to find locally produced meat, what with them being on every street corner and whatnot…

    • Did you know that much of our “lean” meat in the US is cut with beef scraps from countries like Argentina, which primarily raise grass fed beef?

    • KarenCall

      What makes animal flesh Sustainable? Please see Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret and the book Meatonomics.

  • Teri

    Cool. So they are free to send all the meat with antibiotics and GMO products out and no one will be able to protect themselves from it.

  • Tom Watson

    I am only going to buy local meat from now on. Fortunately where I live I am able to do that. I won’t have as much choice but I won’t be dictated to by Canadians and Mexicans.

  • NickLiddiard

    The issue isn’t American sovereignty, but why the WTO is ruling against consumer rights in knowing the origin of products purchased. We have a right to know where are food comes from, and certainly a right to demand a standard from competing markets if their product is consumed by the United States. That is a right that isn’t just awarded to citizens of the United States, but a right of consumers everywhere. The global market MUST be competitive. To hoodwink consumers so that we are tricked into buying foreign products produced in nefarious conditions, might be beneficial to the developing world, but is simply counterproductive to the rights of consumers everywhere and therefor damning to the WTO for choosing the integration of emerging markets over the rights of individual world citizens.

  • Stephen Brough

    Ok, now that I’m Po’ed about this, I have a solution. Require the label to list the state and county where the product comes from, not the country. Educated consumers can figure it out and choose to by as local as they can. No label, let the consumer decide if they want to purchase mystery meat.