Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington D.C.- “Today’s announcement that the United States has filed an appeal to defend country of origin labels on food at the World Trade Organization (WTO) is good news for consumers and farmers. We are heartened that the Obama administration has finally stood up against the meat industry’s attack on common-sense rules that let people get vital information about what they are eating.
“The WTO’s November ruling that some provisions of the U.S. law on mandatory country of origin labeling were barriers to trade made it clear once again that the WTO serves global corporate agribusiness interests, not consumers and farmers. Most Americans do not think that an unelected, unaccountable international trade body should get to decide what U.S. consumers can know about their food. Geneva trade bureaucrats have no business meddling in American grocery carts and should not be able to undermine rules put in place by U.S. elected officials.
“The rule for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several kinds of nuts went into effect in 2008, providing American consumers with critical information they need to make informed choices about where their food is from and how it was produced. Since its inclusion in the 2002 Farm Bill, COOL 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.
“It was clear that appealing this bad WTO decision was the right choice, and it should not have taken the Obama administration until the last possible day to file an appeal. The President and Congress must continue to defend mandatory country of origin labeling from future WTO challenges or any other attempts to take away this crucial labeling program.”