Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“Today, Auburn University agricultural economics professor C. Robert Taylor released a groundbreaking study that demonstrated that the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law has not undermined Canada and Mexico’s livestock exports to the United States. The analysis found that COOL itself did not cause the decline in livestock exports; instead COOL was implemented as the economic recession eroded consumer demand for higher-priced meats.
“Americans are more interested than ever in information about what is in the food they feed their families. A two-decade campaign by consumer and farm advocates succeeded in implementing commonsense and widely supported country of origin labels for meat, seafood, produce and other foods in 2009. But before the first steak was labeled, Canada and Mexico challenged these sensible labels as an unfair barrier to trade at the World Trade Organization.
“Canada, Mexico, the meatpacking industry and other business trade associations claim that COOL alone undermined their livestock exports. Canada has put a price tag of $2 billion annually on lost export opportunities. The meatpackers and their allies pretend that the World Trade Organization has given its blessing for $2 billion in COOL tariff penalties, but the figure is based on Canada’s deeply flawed studies that are completely debunked by Professor Taylor’s astute analysis.
“The U.S. Trade Representative has argued before the WTO that Canada’s analysis was overly simplistic, ignored key information and confused the impact of COOL with the economic effects of the recession. Professor Taylor’s more comprehensive and rigorous examination of additional factors found that COOL had minimal impact on these exports. Today’s study casts significant doubt on the likelihood of any tariff penalties, since the COOL labels did not harm Canada or Mexico’s ability to export livestock to the United States.
“Congress should ignore the propaganda about COOL that is being pushed by the multinational meatpackers and other trade associations. The simple truth is that the economic downturn, not COOL lables, eroded livestock exports to the United States. The Obama administration must defend the integrity of these labels at the WTO.”
Contact: Kate Fried, [email protected], 202-683-2500