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wto threatens us over country of origin food labels


February 6, 2013

WTO threatens US over Country of Origin Food Labels

February 6, 2013. Why don’t food companies want consumers to know what deadly chemicals are in their food or what country it comes from? Because if Americans knew the truth, many would never buy or consume that food. With the World Trade Organization demanding the US stop putting Country of Origin Labels on its products, safe food advocates are hoping President Obama will stand strong and rebuff the threat without starting a global trade war.

Edging out the IMF, the WTO is the undisputed most-hated organization by the people of the world, as this recent protest in Indonesia demostrates.

‘Buy American’ illegal

Americans like their Idaho potatoes, their Wisconsin, Vermont and California cheese, their Alaska seafood, Maine lobsters, Louisiana shrimp, Vidalia onions, Washington apples, Michigan cherries, Virginia pork, Florida oranges, Georgia peaches, Texas beef and countless other local and American specialties. In most instances, consumers choose these products not because they taste or look better, or because they’re cheaper. They buy them because they know the US has some of the strictest food safety laws in the world. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re patronizing fellow Americans and doing their small but hugely impactful part to save and create jobs right here in the US.

But those days may be over if the Obama Administration succumbs to the World Trade Organization and its threats. The consumer watchdog group Food & Water Watch is asking Americans to contact the White House and ask the President to stand strong and keep requiring food sold in the US to show the country it came from.

“Since 2008, when Country of Origin Labeling became mandatory in the US, we at least knew what country our meat and veggies were coming from,” said Maria Tchijov of Food & Water Watch in an email to supporters last week, “But last year, the World Trade Organization (WTO) declared these labels illegal. Can you ask President Obama to reject this decision and protect your right to know where your food comes from?”

World government overrules US Constitution

Explaining that mankind has been fighting for safety, honesty and transparency regarding its food for centuries, Food & Water Watch’s Anna Ghosh described the current battle lines on Monday, “After more than a decade of hard work, the Country of Origin Labeling rule was included in the 2008 Farm Bill and has had overwhelming support from both consumers and US farmers, despite repeated attempts by the food industry to kill the program and delay its implementation.”

Ghosh goes on to put this particular fight into perspective, showing it as yet another example of world courts, world governments and the World Trade Organization subverting the US Constitution and American sovereignty – a fight many Americans have been waging for decades. In a welcomed turn of events, the White House actually stood by the American people and challenged the WTO over its demands.

“At the end of 2011, the World Trade Organization ruled that although Country of Origin Labels were a legitimate goal, the United States’ COOL program is a violation of international trade law,” Food & Water Watch’s Anna Ghosh recounts, “In March of 2012, President Obama stood up for American consumers and farmers and appealed the WTO’s decision, but the US lost the appeal in June. Essentially, the WTO over-ruled the US Congress and the overwhelming majority of consumers and farmers.”

Congress gets involved

Showing how serious this threat is and just how close Americans are to losing their right to know what country their food comes from, more than two dozen US Senators have quickly gotten involved. The bi-partisan group of 31 Senators sent a joint letter to US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk asking them to protect Americans’ right to know where the food in their grocery store comes from.

Unfortunately, it appears the group is only interested in labeling beef and pork products, abandoning fruits, vegetables, seafood, processed foods, food additives, and a host of other products Americans find on their plates.

‘We are writing regarding the decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 4, 2012 that the United States must implement the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) decision on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) by May 23, 2013,’ the letter from the 31 US Senators read, ‘While we disagree with the DSB decision and the June 29, 2012 Appellate Body decision, we appreciate that the WTO recognized the United States’ legitimate authority to require country of origin labeling for beef and pork products. Following a deliberative and thorough process which has lasted more than 10 years, Congress enacted COOL in response to demand from consumers and livestock producers that reliable information be available about where their meat and seafood comes from.’

The letter from the 31 Senators goes on to say, ‘It is now critical that the US Trade Representative and US Department of Agriculture work together to find a regulatory solution that can be implemented by the livestock industry and serves consumers as Congress intended.’ In other words, the President gets to overrule Congress, and the World Trade Organization gets to overrule the President. The US Senate now finds itself in the historic position of having to beg its own President and a world government to recognize American sovereignty.

The letter was signed by 31 US Senators. They include:

Sen. Jon Tester

Sen. Michael B. Enzi

Sen. Tim Johnson

Sen. Charles Grassley

Sen. Ron Wyden

Sen. John Barrasso

Sen. John Thune

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Tom Udall

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski

Sen. Claire McCaskill

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

Sen. David Vitter

Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu

Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Sen. Richard J. Durbin

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Sen. Tom Harkin

Sen. Mark Begich

Sen. John Hoeven

Sen. Carl Levin

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

To read a copy of the letter from the US Senators, click here.

For more information on the Country of Origin Labeling fight, visit Food & Water Watch.