COOL ruling elicits lukewarm responses from groups
After months of anticipation, the World Trade Organization officially has made known its ruling regarding the Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) as of Nov. 18.
Since the end of May, unconfirmed reports have said that COOL will be found in violation of the World Trade Organization. This was even mentioned during a June 28 Senate Agriculture hearing, “The State of Livestock in America,” with no confirmation given.
COOL was passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill Act. In 2008, mandatory Country-of-Origin-Labeling for beef and other meats was imposed. Canada and Mexico filed a formal complaint against the United States and the COOL requirements that went into effect six months earlier.
After the COOL announcement was made in mid-November, Andre Mead, press secretary for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said, “We are pleased that the panel affirmed the right of the United States to require country of origin labeling for meat markets. ... Although the panel disagreed with the specifics of how the United States designed those requirements, we remain committed to providing consumers with accurate and relevant information with respect to the origin of meat products that they buy at the retail level. In that regard we are considering all options, including appealing the panel’s decision.”
See “COOL update” for more from the World Trade Organization ruling.
As the ruling was made public, several organizations responded.
“COOL gives consumers the opportunity to make informed food purchases for their families while at the same time, providing American food producers the opportunity to distinguish their products in the retail marketplace,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson in a Nov. 18 National Farmers Union press release. “For example, in 2008, several companies in China were found to be adding melamine to infant formula, leading to kidney stones and renal failure. Consumers have a right to know where their food is coming from so they can choose for themselves the kind of products they purchase.”
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association echoed Johnson’s stance on this issue.
“Obviously, there are sections of the panel’s findings that we strongly disagree with,” said Danni Beer, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association director and COOL Committee chair. “We are pleased, however, that the panel affirmed the right of the United States to label meat for consumers. We believe the consumer has the right to know where their products come from, and that consumers continue to have the freedom to make informed purchasing decisions.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association believes bringing “the United States into compliance is the answer.”
Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association vice president of government affairs, said in a beef association Nov. 18 press release, “This is a strong ruling from the World Trade Organization that proves COOL was not only a disservice to U.S. cattlemen and women but also contained far-reaching implications for two of the most important trade partners for U.S. agriculture,” Woodall said. “We must act quickly before U.S. farmers and ranchers once again face unnecessary and unfortunate retaliatory tariffs on their products.”