Advocates sue to restore country of origin labeling

2012-09-07T11:03:00Z 2015-02-03T10:23:44Z Advocates sue to restore country of origin labelingFood Safety News
September 07, 2012 11:03 am  • 

An act that would require meat, chicken and fish to be sold with labels indicating their country of origin has made its way to federal court after being struck down by the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Act, also known as the "COOL Act," which was found by WTO to be in violation of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, should continue to be enforced in the United States, advocates say. 

Proponents of the act have teamed up to ask the U.S. District Court in Denver to overrule the WTO decision that struck down the COOL Act. Plaintiffs in the action against the U.S. government and WTO are USA Foundation, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers Association (R-CALF) and a meat and vegetable distributor that goes by the name Melonhead.

USA Foundation has promoted the protection of domestic car and truck content and American craft designers.

First adopted in 2002, COOL was never popular with U.S. neighbors, and WTO appeals eventually were filed by Mexico and Canada.

A WTO panel found that COOL violated Tariffs and Trade because it imposed discriminatory burdens or barriers to Mexico and Canada.

R-CALF, however, says it doesn't see COOL as "a barrier to trade of any kind." Instead, it says it fulfills a overwhelming consumer demand for information.

It also says the Uruguay trade and tariff agreement, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 states that U.S. law prevails in any trade conflict between the United States and other countries.

R-CALF said the WTO ruling was an attempt to intimidate the United States and harmed American cattlemen because it meant consumers might confuse foreign meat for domestic products.

Named defendants in the lawsuit include U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The plaintiffs want a federal judge to order the trade representatives to cease and desist from negotiating with Canada and Mexico an amended and "watered-down" COOL, and they want the secretary of agriculture ordered to do his "legal duty."

R-CALF is the second largest organization of U.S. cattlemen after the Denver-based National Cattlemen's Beef Association. NCBA views COOL as a marketing issue -- not a food safety issue -- to be worked out with the nation's top two trading partners, who together account for 59 percent of beef exports.

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