Taking a Stand Against Mystery Meat
By Anna Ghosh
Food labels are a straightforward and fundamental concept but consumer advocates and concerned citizens have been fighting for honest, transparent labels about their food for centuries, and the fight rages on. Food & Water Watch and its allies are fighting hard across the country to make the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food the law. However, there’s another important label that is law, but its fate is hanging in the balance – Country of Origin Labeling, or COOL. After more than a decade of hard work, the COOL rule was included in the 2008 Farm Bill and has had overwhelming support from both consumers and U.S. farmers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the program and delay its implementation.
Today, because of COOL, consumers know more about where their food comes from, although there are still too many loopholes and limitations. COOL applies to fresh seafood, cuts of meat (but not processed meats like sausage), fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several kinds of nuts. But even before the first COOL label was slapped on a steak or pork chop, the meatpacking industry sought to unravel COOL by challenging theses commonsense consumer labels at the World Trade Organization as an illegal barrier to international trade
At the end of 2011, the World Trade Organization ruled that although COOL labels were a legitimate goal, the United States’ COOL program is a violation of international trade law. In March of 2012, President Obama stood up for American consumers and farmers and appealed the WTO’s decision, but the U.S. lost the appeal in June. Essentially, the WTO over-ruled the U.S. Congress and the overwhelming majority of consumers and farmers.
Then, last week, Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and 27 of their colleagues from both parties, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative urging that any changes to the COOL rule must continue to give consumers information about the source of the meat in their grocery carts.
People deserve the right to know how and where their food was produced so they can make informed decisions about what they’re feeding themselves and their families – it’s that simple. We applaud Senator Tester and his colleagues for standing up for consumers’ right to know and hope the Obama Administration follows suit. Please join us in asking President Obama and Secretary Vilsack to protect country origin labeling.
For more information:
The letter signed by the bipartisan coalition of senators urging the USDA to protect COOL
Senator Tester’s press release
More background on COOL
Global Grocer: Fill your virtual grocery cart with produce from around the world and learn about its hidden dangers