Senate Bill Seeks to Repeal Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for Beef, Pork and Chicken

The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation introduced on July 23 by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Hoeven (R-ND) repeals an overwhelmingly popular food label, surrenders to over exaggerated threats by our trading partners and creates more international trade problems than it solves.


The legislation is aimed at solving an ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute, but the WTO process is far from complete. The Senate has never repealed a statute that was challenged under international trade rules before the dispute was completed.

The legislation introduced last week fully repeals mandatory COOL for beef, pork, chicken and ground meat and gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discretion to establish a voluntary domestic label for beef, pork or chicken. It is considerably weaker than the discussion draft circulated last month because it repeals COOL labels for ground meat, which the WTO ruled were trade legal and COOL labels for chicken, which were not even considered in the dispute.

The legislation is a full repeal of COOL with the window dressing of a voluntary labeling option. But before mandatory COOL labels were re-enacted in 2008, meatpackers did not use voluntary COOL labels. In practice, a voluntary COOL label is the same as no label at all. Meatpackers won’t use it, consumers won’t see it and farmers and ranchers won’t benefit from it.

Even if voluntary COOL labels went into widespread use, a voluntary labeling program could still face a challenge under international trade deals. The voluntary “Dolphin-Safe” tuna label has been successfully challenged at the WTO. Today’s voluntary COOL label is especially subject to challenge because it only applies to domestic livestock, there are no provisions for a voluntary label on imports, which creates the presumption that unlabeled and potentially imported meat is less desirable or less safe. That distinction runs afoul of every trade agreement’s rules prohibiting discrimination against imports.

Consumers deserve to know where their food comes but today’s proposal puts meatpacking giants back in control of what we get to know about the food we buy. The Senate should not let international trade tribunals and big meat companies run roughshod over Congress’ authority to enact U.S. laws. We urge the Senate to reject this bill and stand up for mandatory COOL.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

House Votes to Let Monsanto Deceive Consumers About GMOs

18 Foods You Don't Need to Buy Organic

5 Superfoods to Maximize Your Plant-Based Protein Intake

Grow Your Own Food Year-Round with DIY Solar Greenhouse

Is Seafood Going to Disappear From the Menu?

Five Easy Life Hacks to Help the Environment — And Your Own Health

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close