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WTO COOL Ruling

burnt

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(Reuters) - The World Trade Organization has ruled against some U.S. labeling regulations for meat sold in supermarkets, saying they discriminate against foreign suppliers, people close to the case said on Thursday.

The confidential interim ruling, if approved later this year, would deal a partial victory to Mexican and Canadian breeders frustrated in their attempts to export to the United States, and opens the way to scores of similar legal challenges, the sources said.

A WTO spokesman said the interim report -- expected to be largely unchanged in its final version later this year -- was circulated to the United States, Canada and Mexico on May 20. The WTO declined to comment on its contents, citing its confidentiality.

Canada and Mexico sued the United States at the WTO in 2009, saying U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rules requiring meat sold in U.S. stores to show which country it comes from damaged their North American trade.

More broadly, the case highlights a growing trend toward subtle trade barriers -- including standards on health, safety or consumer information -- that can hit demand for imports.

The ruling is expected to spur similar cases around the world where exports worth billions of dollars are being slowed by such standards, some of which are designed specifically to galvanize local consumer loyalty.

"The WTO is going to hear many more cases on standards such as consumer labels. The findings of the COOL case and others show labeling schemes have a very real chance of being ruled illegal at the WTO," said a person familiar with the issue.

The U.S. rule obliges suppliers to label certain foods, including beef and pork, according to the country in which they are sourced. A U.S. label is permitted only on meat from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States.

U.S. CATTLE GROUPS MIXED

The biggest U.S. cattle industry group welcomed the decision, saying COOL was a bad idea from the start.

"This ruling is unfortunate for the U.S. government but the consequences of a poor decision have been revealed. We fully support WTO's preliminary ruling," Bill Donald, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said in a statement.

Donald said U.S. cattle ranchers suffer from COOL along with cattlemen from Mexico and Canada because it reduces the value of North American feeder cattle.

But a rival cattle group warned the decision would hurt U.S. producers by denying consumers the ability to make an informed choice.

"We want consumers to be able to support our U.S. cattle industry by differentiating and selecting U.S.-grown beef from the growing volumes of imported beef sourced from over a dozen foreign countries," Mike Schultz, of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, said in a statement.

Once a final report is issued later this year, the United States will have 60 days to appeal.

"The U.S. remains committed to helping ensure that consumers get the information they need to make informed buying decisions about these products," said Nkenge Harmon, spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer and Charles Abbott in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Vicki Allen)
 

burnt

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There is no law broken in placing on the package a label which says specifically where the beef came from.

Who doesn't know about "Alberta Beef"? Loblaws in kicking off a labelled beef program, "Ontario Corn-fed Beef" here in Ontario.

It is called promotion, not protectionism.

http://ontag.farms.com/forum/topics/video-loblaws-putting-ontario
 

mrj

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burnt, isn't that a store brand, tho it does include "Ontario" on the label?

It may be the fact that R-CALF prevented real origin from being revealed, and generic 'USA grown' really conveys nothing about quality.

I'm bothered by the law because it will give the same implication of 'superior' product to even the worst quality of beef only because it is produced in the USA, and with no traceability, there is no incentive to increase the quality of the lower tiers of the cow herd in the USA.

With traceability to producer and grid pricing so that higher quality beef is rewarded, there is definite incentive to improve quality of cattle and beef produced in the US.

mrj
 

burnt

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A bit more info here -

http://www.farms.com/FarmsPages/ENews/NewsDetails/tabid/189/Default.aspx?NewsID=41400

This is the result of a collaborative effort between the OCA and Loblaws.

FWIW - the cattle could ( and likely do) come from Western Canada, the corn from Michigan, Ohio or Indiana and still it still qualifies to sell as "Ontario Corn-fed Beef"!

In this age of stuff moving around the world in a day, it is pretty hard to call anything "locally produced" unless it comes out of one's own barn or garden.

The bottom line is this - if consumers want to eat food that comes from a verifiable, local source, they had best align themselves with a producer whose practices they know. That, in my opinion, is the only and ultimate form of traceability.

The government and producer group attempts at achieving traceability are just an expensive exercise in futility. But hey, it creates more government jobs, Right?

Oh - sorry for the sarcasm . . .

It is pretty hard to improve on the system that we once had and discarded for one that tries to employ economies of scale, bringing (dubious) benefit to no one but the retailer and packers.
 
A

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May 26, 2011 Phone: 406-252-2516; [email protected]



America’s Sovereignty Attacked by World Trade Organization



Billings, Mont. – While the nebulous powers of the United Nations (U.N.) and its various international subsidiaries like the World Trade Organization (WTO) are far removed from the day-to-day lives of most U.S. citizens, a wake-up call has just been delivered to every U.S. household. Today, according to a report issued by the respected Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), the WTO has issued a preliminary decision that strikes down the United States’ consumer information law that requires many foods in U.S.< /st1:place> grocery stores to be labeled with their country of origin.



This consumer information law, known as the mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law, was first passed in the U.S. Congress in 2002 and requires that U.S. food retailers affix labels denoting the country-of-origin to such important household food staples as beef, lamb, pork, goat meat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, ginseng and macadamia nuts.



“The COOL law is widely supported by farmers, ranchers and consumers as an important consumers’ right-to-know law,” said R-CALF USA COOL Committee Chair Mike Schultz. “COOL enables consumers to exercise choice in the marketplace by giving shoppers the information they need to choose from which country they want their food produced.



“U.S. cattle farmers and ranchers support COOL because we want consumers to be able to support our U.S. cattle industry by differentiating and selecting U.S.-grown beef from the growing volumes of imported beef sourced from over a dozen foreign countries,” Shultz said.



The governments of Canada and Mexico did not want the United States to pass its COOL law and, shortly after the law went into effect, they each filed a formal complaint with the WTO arguing the U.S. COOL law violated international agreements. Today’s BNA report suggests the WTO has agreed with these foreign governments.



“While we are tremendously disappointed in the decision, we believe it was necessary to prove to the American people just how dangerous it is for the United States to acquiesce to international tribunals such as the WTO,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “U.S. citizens exercised their constitutional right to self-governance by urging Congress to pass a law that informs them of where their food is produced. Now we have an un-elected, foreign tribunal that is attempting to strike down our constitutionally passed law.



“There can be no clearer evidence than this that Congress’ acquiescence to these international tribunals threatens our nation’s core sovereignty,” he added. “If U.S. citizens no longer have the right to have a label on their food that informs them of where their food came from, then our sovereign rights as citizens of this Great Nation have already been
eroded.”



“This is a wake-up call to every U.S. family,” said Schultz. “Every U.S. citizen needs to pick up the phone and call their members of Congress to tell them it’s high time that Congress quit kowtowing to international organizations and begin listening to the American people. We want to know where our food comes from – period.”
 

Sandhusker

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The WTO was not created to help the little guy. As far as I'm concerned, they can take their ruling and hang it.

MRJ, "With traceability to producer ...." That would be useful if that information was benefical and/or useful to the consumer. The problem is, whether their steak came from Diamond Bar in Nebraska or Rocking Y in Montana means nothing to the consumer.
 

Kato

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Boy, I haven't seen a cut and paste rcalf press release for a while. :wink: Are those guys still in business?

Thanks for posting that, burnt. I wasn't sure I was in the mood to drag out this old scrap again. But now that it's out... :p
 

Tex

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If the WTO does outlaw "Alberta beef" or any other truthful label, it should be disbanded. Untruthful labels should be attacked by everyone as it is just a scam. Requiring more truth on a label than one wants to put on it should be a prerogative or decision of any government, not their retailers or the corporations who wish to hide the information for their own gain. Half of lying is not telling the whole truth that is useful. Half of lying is also hiding the truth in a legal document or text that no one will read.




Tex
 

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