In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, 19 U.S. senators have asked the Obama administration to appeal a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel decision that, while validating the U.S.'s authority to have Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat products, strikes down the COOL regulations which implement the law. From here, the panel decision will either be adopted by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body or the decision can be appealed to the WTO Appellate Body.
"We requested these agencies take appropriate actions to appeal the Dispute Settlement Procedures ruling and to work to ensure that our COOL program both meets our international trade obligations while continuing to provide such information to consumers," Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) said. "People want to know where the food on their tables comes from, and that makes COOL a no-brainer."
Nearly all products sold in the United States show where the product was made. In fact, other countries label where their meat originated. Grassley says it's completely legitimate for the United States to show if the meat we buy originated in the United States.
In the letter, the senators wrote that it was the intention of Congress in developing this provision that such labeling would be nondiscriminatory in its treatment of imported products by requiring the labeling of both domestic as well as imported products.
The letter went on to state that with that goal in mind, the senators appreciate the thoughtful rulemaking process undertaken by the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Food Safety Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in developing the rule implementing COOL. While they believe that improvements should have been made to the final rule, they also believe that it appropriately establishes a labeling system which provides important and useful information to consumers while not placing an undue burden on the industry.
The American Sheep Industry Association is a long-standing supporter of COOL for lamb.
Reprinted in part from FarmFutures.com