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November 18th, 2011

WTO Decision on COOL Attacks Consumers’ Right to Know

Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch

Washington, D.C. – “Today’s announcement by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that part of the United States’ requirement for mandatory country of origin labeling of food is a violation of international trade law illustrates, once again, that the WTO does not want U.S. consumers to know where their food comes from. This fits nicely into corporate agribusiness’ vision for our food system, but it’s a blow for critical U.S. regulation that consumers and farmers have worked for decades to achieve.

“The WTO should not get to decide what U.S. consumers get to know about their food and should not be able to undermine rules put in place by U.S. elected officials. We urge the Obama Administration to stand up for U.S. consumers and farmers and appeal the WTO ruling on country of origin labeling (COOL) for food.

“The rule for mandatory country of origin labeling for meat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several kinds of nuts went into effect in 2008, providing American consumers with vital 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. producers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the program and delay its implementation.

“Canada and Mexico challenged the rule for mandatory COOL in 2008, arguing that the requirement that meat with a ‘Product of USA’ label come from animals that were born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States, is a barrier to trade. This definition of ‘Product of USA’ was the result of years of work by consumers and U.S. ranchers and farmers to ensure that country of origin labeling would be accurate and informative for consumers. The WTO decision also questions the use of labeling that lists multiple countries on a product. This practice is necessary because blended products like ground beef can come from parts of multiple animals that may have different origins. Consumers deserve to know what countries their food comes from, no matter how many countries that is.”


Contact: Anna Ghosh, 415-265-1568; aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.