WTO Not So COOL: Rules Against Popular U.S. Meat Labeling Law

The World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a final ruling today against the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law. This popular pro-consumer policy, which informs shoppers where meat and other foods were raised or grown, enjoys the support of 93% of Americans, according to a 2010 Consumers Union poll. Now Congress must gut or change the law to avoid the application of punitive trade sanctions.

WTO vs. Consumers

Country-of-Origin LabelThe original meat labeling law passed as part of the 2002 farm bill and was expanded in the 2008 farm bill to apply to other foods like fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Canada, Mexico, and several other countries filed a complaint regarding the policy with the WTO in December 2008 calling the popular consumer measure a "disguised" barrier to trade. The organization initially ruled in their favor in November 2011, but the U.S. filed an appeal in March 2012. Today, a WTO tribunal made up of three trade officials ruled that the U.S. law is a violation of the WTO's legally binding "Technical Barrier to Trade" agreement. The ruling is final. If the United States does not gut or change the law, the WTO can apply punitive sanctions, usually in the form of tariffs on U.S. exports. The ruling also casts into doubt the WT0-legality of other popular labeling laws.

Last week, the Obama administration invited Canada and Mexico to join the latest trade pact under negotiation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), without an agreement to drop their attack on the popular U.S. consumer labeling. Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch at the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, commented: "The American public is desperately waiting for President Barack Obama to show some negotiating savvy, and to start fulfilling his campaign pledges and reconsider the so-called 'trade' model that his administration is pushing with the TPP."

WTO Protest BannerThe ruling is the WTO's third this year against U.S. consumer protection laws. In May, it ruled against U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labels, again, in a case that has been dragging on for over a decade. In April, it ruled against a U.S. ban on clove, candy, and cola-flavored cigarettes. "These three rulings -- with the WTO slapping down safe hamburgers, Flipper and children's smoking prevention policy -- make it increasingly clear to the public that the WTO is leading a race to the bottom in consumer protection," said Todd Tucker, research director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

ALEC Supports Foreign Trade Tribunals Operating Outside the Constraints of U.S. Law

The TPP is one of many free trade agreements pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing corporate bill mill, which approved a resolution supporting the TPP in 2010. ALEC has supported every free trade agreement for decades, including Most Favored Nation Trading Status for China. This free trade agenda has not only weakened U.S. consumer protection but cost the country millions of jobs as factories closed and moved overseas in search of cheaper labor. These agreements also allow public health, environmental, and worker safety rules to be challenged as "barriers to trade" in trade tribunals that operate outside the constraints of U.S. law and outside of the democratic process.


It would be good if everyone remembered that all of this was the idea of the US back in the 1980s, thrust on a world that basically wanted no part of, through threats of being left on the outside of any trade regime. This labeling requirement is based on the (false) assumption that 'foreign' food is not as good as "American" food and that consumers will know this instinctively and stay away from such labeled food. It is in fact a disguised barrier to trade. The quality of what most Americans eat, with its additives and preservatives and fat and sugar and salt and added aromas is far below what people in other countries at a similar level of development would even think of putting on their tables. If people really cared about consumer protection and health, they would put their efforts into labeling GMOS, but that, it seems is impossible given the power of the same corporations that brought us WTO in the first place (TRIPs, for example was written by 12 pharmaceutical executives, and we all know that Monsanto has taken such control of the government from the inside that they don't even need lobbies anymore). I'm not in favor of much that WTO does (TRIPS is an abomination, for example), but it is all an American baby, so please don't play the victim here. You are falling into a (not even clever) trap - blame the foreigner. Wake up and smell the manipulation.

This is a moral outrage. WTO has essentially removed the common sense right of a citizen to have knowledge regarding the country of origin for sustenance he will use to feed himself and family?! Many countries have extremely lax food health policies if any, and we're expected to just go along with being poisoned so some Godless, twisted greed driven corporation can make a buck! I'm sick and tired of being treated as a stupid slave by the cult of rapacious vultures running our lives! This is the flesh eating aspect of 'capitalism' we need to shut down!

I am outraged. This is a prime example of our sovereignty being destroyed and our freedoms usurped by foreign and multi-national corporations with the blessings of the US government. This type of law should NEVER be allowed. We have every right to know where our food is coming from and what is in it. Now more than ever I will only buy local and preferably organic produce. Farmers markets here I come. If you must buy packaged or foreign food ask and demand from the grocer where the food is coming from.

The duel party system is failing as the 2 parties take turns stripping away various personal, civil, and consumer rights. It just depends on what the product is. But the Green Party may not be the answer. The Green Party supports the environmental aspect of the 99%, but only the part of the 99% that do not also care about their personal medical and health freedom and are willing to go along with the government's current idea of offering insurance to all, but at the cost of not being allowed to make medical decisions for yourself and your children. It has not spoken out against the low standard of care our government adopts, the revolving door environment of the FDA and CDC and NIH that Obama continues to ignore, the willingness of insurance companies to finance treatments but not cures, and the resulting pro-ALEC decisions that involves, and the monopoly of the allopathic medical system that the government endorses at the cost of other more economical and more successful systems of medicine such as Oriental Medicine, Homeopathy, or even Orthomolecular Medicine or Nutritional therapy, none of which tax the environment. Without personal medical freedom and the right to decide what goes in one's body, environmental freedom and consumer rights are incomplete. The Canary Party www.canaryparty.org is the actual answer. Health Freedom protects consumer rights above corporate corruption of democracy. The pharmaceutical and big ag corporate interests, plastic & retail industries which are funded/supported/evolving from the chemical industry are the agents of that corruption, including the meat labeling issue. The Canary Party supports medical consumers' rights and freedoms of choice and necessarily encompasses the environmental issues that need to be resolved in order for people to enjoy true health, instead of spending what little extraneous funds are available to the common man & government on chronic or cancer health care, which then perpetuates the chemical industry's control of our medicine, our environment, our food, our purchasing, and our consumer rights. The Green Party loves the earth, yes. But it stops short of acknowledging that fixing the true primary environment, our bodies, by eating clean food from clean land and using clean, safe medical treatments & retail products based on the precautionary principal addresses the concerns of ALL 100% of our society. This is logic that the Canary Party has addressed already in its platform, which allows it to support such consumer rights such as those the WTO wants to trample.

This is one of the best arguments yet for local farmers' markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It is becoming essential that we buy local and organic. Get out of town, find your local farmers and find out how to help. Lots of states have Tilth and Organic/Sustainable farming associations. Look them up, and see what you can do. Find the nearest food cooperative, and volunteer. We can no longer be passive victims of multinational agribusiness. Also, people really shouldn't be poisoning themselves with meat, whether it is from the U.S. or elsewhere -- not unless they want cancer and heart disease. Find out about how you can combine beans and corn, and any legumes and grains for a healthy complete protein that's greater than beef. It is also way cheaper. The only way the multinationals can thrive is on the passivity of the public. Also, if you want jobs to return to the U.S., boycott to the extent you can, all imported products, especially from China.

I know when I go food shopping I look for food grown in my country and shun the rest. Support the local market.

I am extremely sensitive to food additives. Starting about five years ago, I found that eating Asian shrimp put me out of comission for days. Now I will be forced to forego any seafood that has Asia as one of its possible sources.

Shrimp contains an as yet unidentified allergen that has been precisely mapped to inflame the lymph nodes. The Cure and Prevention of All Cancers. 2007. Clark HR PhD ND. Dr Clarks works since 1995 are based on over half a million repeatable so scientifically VALID bio-resonance tests. ll Many feel quite ill after eating shrimp, maybe some are more sensitive to this allergen. Maybe its higher in Asian shrimp. I live in Thailand. We had shrimp last night, 3 pieces each, no reactions.

In a world guided by morals, rather than money, it would be logical to identify the source of all products. However money now runs everything. The WTO decision is designed to ensure that the big corporations can do what they like, including putting the family farm out of business. The WTO is run by the big multi-nationals, so they are "required" to do what helps get rid of the small producers.

One would think there would be pride in ownership for countries selling in the world market. If there is not, it makes one wonder what the WTO believes is being dumped on consumers! Another good reason to buy locally and to personally know the source of your food, regardless of what country you live in. This is, however, especially true in the USA where our government is controlled by food industry money. In the US, just about anything is sold and without adequate labeling. US citizens believe they are "safer than consumers in foreign countries," because "somebody" (they assume the government) is watching out for their best interests. That is the line feed to them through their controlled free media and which permeates their society. The reality is that if "their best interests" are not profitable they are ignored. Protect yourselves and buy local, eat conservatively, and always critically analyze what the media reports as news. Often it is simply a release by a corporation seeking profit. The US is king of subliminal persuasion and the sheeple who buy into it are getting fat and sick.