June 29, 2012
A U.S. law that requires labeling of certain foods by country of origin, and adds hassles for U.S. processors who import meat or livestock from Canada, has again been ruled out of bounds by a world trade body, this time on appeal.
The Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) today upheld the ruling by a panel of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), which in November last year found that the U.S. government's mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law violates parts of the WTO's Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
The U.S. government in March filed an appeal, seeking to overturn the DSB's ruling that COOL violates Washington's WTO obligations and "does not fulfill its legitimate objective" of consumer education.
However, the Appellate Body has upheld the DSB's finding that COOL "has a detrimental impact on imported livestock."
COOL's recordkeeping and verification requirements "create an incentive for processors to use exclusively domestic livestock and a disincentive against using like imported livestock," the Appellate Body said.
The Appellate Body went further, however, and ruled COOL "lacks even-handedness" by imposing "a disproportionate burden on upstream producers and processors of livestock, as compared to the information conveyed to consumers through the mandatory labeling requirements for meat sold at the retail level."
COOL, the Appellate Body said, requires a "large amount of information must be tracked and transmitted by upstream producers for purposes of providing consumers with information on origin" but "only a small amount of this information is actually communicated to consumers in an understandable or accurate manner."
On top of that, the Appellate Body ruled, "a considerable proportion of meat sold in the United States is not subject to the COOL measure's labeling requirements at all."
COOL's impact on imported livestock, thus, "cannot be said to stem exclusively from a legitimate regulatory distinction" and instead amounts to discrimination against Canadian products, violating the TBT agreement.
COOL was conceived in Washington's 2002 Farm Bill and launched in September 2008. It orders U.S. retailers to notify their customers, by way of labeling, on the sources of foods such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, fish, fruits, vegetables, peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.
Reprinted from Grainnews.com