NFFC vice president, Dena Hoff (Northern Plains Resource Council), is understandably concerned: a pipeline just dumped 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River near her farm. This is the second spill on the Yellowstone in three and a half years, and the Keystone XL pipeline is still under debate for construction.
Please Read the Press Release issued by Alliance For Food Sovereignty In Africa and US Food Sovereignty Alliance here:
December 2, 2014
The Honorable Barbara Mikulski Chairwoman
Senate Appropriations Committee The Capitol S-128
The Honorable Richard Shelby Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee The Capitol S-146-A Washington, DC 20510
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Shelby:
The undersigned 207 farm, ranch, rural, faith, labor, environmental, farmworker, manufacturing and consumer organizations urge the leadership of the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject any effort to weaken, suspend or rescind mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in the upcoming legislation to provide funding for the federal government for the remainder or part of Fiscal Year 2015.
American consumers are increasingly interested in understanding more about the origins of their food and the public overwhelmingly supports Country of Origin Labeling. The commonsense COOL labels that are in place today provide additional and more accurate information about where their food comes from. Farmers are proud of the food they put on American dinner tables and support the current COOL labels that allow consumers to make more informed food purchasing decisions.
Congress enacted COOL in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills in response to the broad-based support for these sensible labels. Since 2008, the World Trade Organization has been weighing a dispute over COOL that will most likely continue past the end of Fiscal Year 2015. The WTO has ruled that COOL labels are legitimate but continues to weigh the implementation of the labeling requirements. Importantly, in each successive deliberation, the WTO has been increasing receptive to the legitimacy of the Congressionally mandated labels.
Congress should not short circuit the WTO process; nor should it unconditionally surrender to the threats of tariff retaliation by our trading partners. We believe the United States has strong grounds to appeal the most recent WTO ruling. Last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative officially announced it would appeal the latest ruling.
The Senate rejected efforts to weaken COOL in the 2014 Farm Bill and the FY 2015 Agricultural Appropriations measure. Indeed, the Farm Bill added venison to the list of products that receive the COOL label. We do not believe that Congress should make any legislative change to weaken, suspend or rescind COOL at this juncture; nor do we believe it is appropriate to make legislative changes to these popular labels outside of the full view of the American public as the Appropriations Committee leadership negotiates the upcoming spending legislation. We urge you to reject any effort to undermine these commonsense labels.
Agricultural Missions, Inc. (NY)
Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association American Agri-Women
American Agriculture Movement
American Federation of Government Employees (AFL- CIO),
Local 3354, USDA-St. Louis
American Grassfed Association American Outdoor Products (CO)
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association Angelic Organics Learning Center (IL)
Arkansas Farmers Union
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake County (OH)
Farmers’ Union Astronaut Foods (CO)
Atlantic States Legal Foundation, Inc. (NY)
Backpacker’s Pantry (CO)
Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)
California Dairy Campaign
California Farmers Union
Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform
Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment
Caney Fork Headwaters Association (TN)
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (NC)
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Cattle Producers of Washington
Center for Family Farm Development (GA)
Center for Food Safety
Center for Media and Democracy’s Food Rights Network
Center for Rural Affairs
Central Co-op (WA)
Chicago Consumer Coalition
Church Women United in New York State
Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana
The CJD Foundation
Cleanwater Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin
Coalition for a Prosperous America
Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association
Communication Workers of America Local 1082 (NJ)
Community Farm Alliance (KY)
Community Food and Justice Coalition (CA)
Consumer Assistance Council, Inc.
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Federation of California
The Consumer Federation of the Southeast
Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias
The Cornucopia Institute
Cornucopia Network NJ/TN Chapter
Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)
Stock Growers Cumberland Countians for Ecojustice (TN)
Dakota Resource Council
Dakota Rural Action of SD
Delmar Farmers Market (NY)
Dock to Dish (NY)
East New York Farms!
United Community Centers Eco-Justice Ministries (CO)
Ecological Farming Association (CA)
The Ecology Party of Florida
Ethical Eating Task Force (CO)
Fair World Project (OR)
Family Farm Defenders (WI)
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
Farmworker Association of Florida
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund
Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. Food & Water Watch
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Food Democracy Now!
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Glenn Miller Seed, Inc. (OR)
Global Justice Ecology Project
Government Accountability Project
Hawaii Farmers Union United
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Idaho Organization of Resource Councils
Illinois Farmers Union
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND)
Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska
Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming
Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas
Indian Nations Conservation Alliance
Indiana Farmers Union
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy International Brotherhood of Teamsters
International Texas Longhorn Association
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Farmers Union
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)
Kansas Cattlemen’s Association
Kansas Farmers Union
The Kitchen Community (CO)
The Land Connection (IL)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy,
Teachers College Columbia University (NY)
Loretto Earth Network (CO)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)
Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society
Marais River Livestock Association (MT)
Massachusetts Consumers’ Council, Inc.
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)
Michigan Farmers Union
Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Association
Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota State National Farmers Organization
Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative
Montana Farmers Union
Murray County (OK)
Independent Cattlemen’s Association
National Consumers League
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Organization
National Farmers Union
National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
National Hmong American Farmers, Inc.
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Organic Coalition
National Women Involved in Farm Economics
National Young Farmers Coalition
Nature Abounds (PA)
Nebraska Farmers Union
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ
Nevada Live Stock Association
New England Farmers Union (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI,VT)
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
New York Women Involved in Farm Economics
N. Carolina Assoc. of Black Lawyers
Land Loss Prevention Project
North Dakota Farmers Union
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc- MA
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. NH
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NJ
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – NY
Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. – RI
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council (NOFA-IC)
Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers Assoc.
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)
Northwest Farm Bill Action Group
Northwest Farmers Union
Northwest Forest Worker Alliance (CA, OR & WA)
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance
Ohio Farmers Union
Oregon Consumers League
Oregon Rural Action
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)
Organic Seed Alliance
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA)
Organization for Competitive Markets
Partnership for Earth Spirituality
PCC Natural Markets (WA)
Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens Group (PBCCG) (PA)
Pennsylvania Farmers Union
Pennypack Farm and Education Center (PA)
Pesticide Action Network North America
Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)
Progressive Agriculture Organization (PA)
R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America
Ranch Foods Direct (CO)
Raritan Headwaters Association (NJ)
Real Food for Kids – Montgomery (MD)
Real Men Charities, Inc.
Rochester Technology & Manufacturing Association (NY)
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Rooted in Community (CA)
Roots of Change (CA)
Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA (RAFI-USA)
Rural and Agricultural Council of America
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Sister Eden (MD)
Small Planet Institute
South Dakota Farmers Union
South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
Texas Farmers Union
Tilth Producers of Washington
Tooling, Manufacturing and Technologies Assoc. (MI)
Transition Newton & Northwest NJ
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness
Ministries Valley Organic Growers Association (CO)
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council
Walter’s Signs (NJ)
Western Colorado Congress
Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)
Williams County Alliance (OH)
Wisconsin Farmers Union
Women, Food and Agriculture Network
Press Release – Tuesday, 25 November 2014
On this International Day of Action Against Violence Towards Women, La Via Campesina is again denouncing the structural violence that women have to confront each day and that has been systematically silenced, made to appear natural, and rendered invisible by patriarchal capitalist society.
In 2008, in its Vth Conference, La Via Campesina launched the Global Campaign to End Violence Towards Women, both as an urgent appeal for a social, cultural, and political change in peoples, in communities, and in organisations, and as a challenge to society as a whole to effect a cultural transformation in order to overcome the relations of inequality between men and women.
Violence and oppression against women existed in pre-capitalist societies, but it is since the onset of capitalism that violence in all its forms – political, economic, physical, and pyschological – has intensified. Today, violence against women is found among all social classes, generations, and sexual orientations, affecting both urban women and rural women.
Read the full press release here.
October 16th, 2014 – Las Cruces, NM – Today marks the 33rd World Food Day of the United Nations and the first release of a new book,Food Voices: Stories From the People Who Feed Us. The theme for this year’s World Food Day is the significance of family farmers, just as Food Voices focuses on the people who feed us. The author traveled through five countries collecting testimonies from small-scale farmers and fishermen, asking the questions What Are You Fighting For? and What Are You Fighting Against?, in order to bring their voices to the table of food policy debates.
After documenting over 70 interviews, Andrianna Natsoulas presents the struggles and solutions of small-scale food producers within the framework of food sovereignty, which was coined by the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, in 1996. Itasserts the right of people to define their own food systems. Food sovereignty purports that those who produce, distribute and consume food must be at the center of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the corporations and market institutions that have come to dominate global food trade.
“It is essential that those who are in the trenches are heard,” says author, Andrianna Natsoulas. “They are the closest to the earth and hold the responsibility in their hands to provide healthy, wholesome, culturally relevant food to their communities now and into the future. They are the roots of the food sovereignty movement”
Ms. Natsoulas is committed to the concept of food sovereignty, as well as to the people at the frontlines of the movement. ThroughFood Voices, she introduces the concept of food sovereignty and highlights farmers and fishermen pursuing it. The voices have already been featured on blogs, in news articles and on the radio, and now they are part of a comprehensive book to strengthen and enhance the global movement towards food sovereignty. The UN acknowledges that the international community must recognize the importance of family farmers in gaining world food security and Food Voices helps advance that task.
A coalition of U.S. farmer and environmental groups, including the NFFC, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking to overturn regulatory approval granted last week for a herbicide developed by Dow AgroSciences.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California, argues that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not adequately analyze the impact of one of the new herbicide’s active ingredients, 2,4-D, before granting approval on Oct. 15 to Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide.
The groups are asking the court to set aside the EPA’s approval.
Widespread use of 2,4-D carries a range of risks to human health, animals, and the environment, the groups allege. They claim the EPA’s approval violated both the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
Please read the full article here.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators are holding closed-door meetings in Australia this week and next.
President Barack Obama wants to announce a TPP deal when he’s in Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in mid-November. So U.S. negotiators are looking to finalize the 12-country deal despite mounting evidence that this dangerous corporate fantasy should not be completed — now or ever.
As negotiators rush to meet Obama’s arbitrary deadline, some members of Congress are seeking to revive Fast Track in the upcoming lame-duck session after the elections.
Fast Track would allow the president to sign the TPP without congressional approval and then railroad the deal through Congress in only 90 days with limited debate and no amendments. Congress — which has constitutional authority over trade — would be forced into an up-or-down vote on the TPP with no opportunity to change the dangerous parts of the deal.
We cannot allow this to happen.
The TPP threatens to impose binding, retrograde rules on non-trade matters that affect our daily lives — undermining food safety, restricting Internet freedom, raising medication prices, rolling back financial regulations and anti-fracking policies, and more.
Some members of Congress are working on a replacement for Fast Track, a so-called “Smart Track.” It is not yet clear if this will be the real Fast Track replacement we so desperately need, or just another anti-democratic Fast Track in disguise.
A real replacement for Fast Track would guarantee Congress a steering wheel and an emergency brake for runaway “trade” deals. For example, Congress should be able to vote to approve an agreement before it is signed by the president.
October 27th, 28th, and 29th
In conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, and with the express support of Pope Francis, a variety of movements representing those who are most disadvantaged and most excluded from society are taking the lead in organising the World Meeting of Popular Movements, which will be held in Rome from October 27th to 29th.
We are very glad of this unique occasion to give visibility to the excluded and to let their voices be heard within the Vatican itself. We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for this opportunity, which is one more demonstration of his constant accompaniment and closeness – not only to those of us who suffer injustice but also to those among us who are uniting to struggle against it.
The Meeting is primarily directed towards the organisations and movements of the excluded. It is expected that 100 delegates from different backgrounds and walks of life will take part. Delegates will represent: a) those who suffer from employment insecurity, temporary workers, migrants, and those involved in the popular sector, informal and/or self-employed workers, workers who lack legal protection, union recognition or labour rights; b) landless peasants and indigenous peoples or those who are at risk of being driven off the land because of agricultural speculation and violence; c) people living in slums and informal settlements, the marginalised, those who have been evicted from their homes, the forgotten, those who are without adequate urban infrastructure. Representatives of the trade unions and the social and human rights organisations that have accompanied the processes of organisation and struggle of the above-mentioned sectors will also be taking part in the meeting.
Bishops and other church workers from a number of countries have also been invited, in order to stimulate dialogue and collaboration with the Church. The meeting will be conducted in Spanish, French, English, Italian, and Portuguese. It will conclude with the promotion of an international body for coordination between popular movements, which will have the support and collaboration of the Church.
The main objectives are:
- To share Pope Francis’ social thinking, especially the items that he includes in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”, and to discuss it from the perspective of popular movements.
- To develop a synthesis of the vision of popular movements with regard to the causes of the world-wide growth in social inequality and increase in social exclusion, particularly with respect to land, labour and housing.
- To reflect collectively on the organisational experiences of popular movements as ways of solving the injustices described above – and to include in our reflective process a discussion of our practices, our forms of interaction with institutions, and our propects for the future.
- To propose grassroots popular alternatives to address the problems – war, displacement, hunger, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, exclusion – brought about by finance capitalism, military arrogance, and the immense power of transnational companies. Discussion will be based on the point of view of persons and peoples who are poor, and it will be imbued with the vision of building a peaceful, free, and fair society.
- To discuss the relationship of the Popular Movements with the Church, and how to move forward in creating a permanent body to coordinate our collaborative work.
We hope this Meeting will mark a milestone in the articulation process of popular movements strengthening a transformative perspective, empowering the poorest sectors and making visible the popular view about the serious problems humanity is facing.
Please read more about the meeting here.
News Release: October 22, 2014
Lawsuit filed against Environmental Protection Agency for approval of 2,4-D use on genetically engineered corn, soy crops in six Midwest states
San Francisco, CA – A coalition of farmers and environmental groups filed a lawsuit to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today on behalf of six Midwest states where a toxic herbicide cocktail called Dow’s Enlist Duo, a blend of glyphosate and 2,4-D, was approved on October 15 for use on genetically engineered (GE) crops.
Approved for use on GE corn and soybeans that were engineered to withstand repeated applications of the herbicide, the creation of 2,4-D-resistant crops and EPA’s approval of Enlist Duo is the result of an overuse of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The misuse resulted in an infestation of glyphosate-resistant super weeds which can now be legally combatted with the more potent 2,4-D. Dow Chemical has presented 2,4-D resistant crops as a quick fix to the problem, but independent scientists, as well as USDA analysis, predict that the Enlist crop system will only foster more weed resistance.
Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett believes the approval has left communities who rallied against the herbicide feeling abandoned by a government that should be paying attention to the people it serves.
“The voices of independent family farmers are being drowned out by the revolving door of corporate and government agency heads,” said Burkett, who serves as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. “It’s time for our government to pay attention to the farmer concerns about the negative impacts of herbicide-resistant GMO on our food supply.”
“American farmers and our families are at risk,” said Iowa corn and soybean farmer George Naylor. “2,4-D is a giant step backwards – it’s just a terrible idea.”
The lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) on behalf of Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, the National Family Farm Coalition, and Pesticide Action Network North America.
The groups are challenging the approval under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), arguing that the EPA did not adequately analyze the impacts of 2,4-D on human health. They will also argue that the approval violated the Endangered Species Act, as there was no consult by the EPA with the Fish & Wildlife Service.
“Rural communities rely on EPA to take its job seriously — to fully consider potential health impacts before introducing new products or allowing a dramatic increase in use of a hazardous and volatile chemical like 2,4-D,” said Pesticide Action Network North America’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD.“Instead, EPA has given the greenlight to an enormous increase in toxic pesticide exposure.”
While the EPA proposed initially to restrict the use of Enlist Duo to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, it’s anticipated another 10 states will follow. The agency is currently accepting comments until November 14, 2014 on whether to register the herbicide cocktail in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota.
“Sadly, our environmental watchdog is playing lapdog to the chemical industry, ignoring hundreds of thousands of comments urging it to do otherwise,” said Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff. “The EPA is aiding and abetting the toxic spiral of using more and more pesticides to feed the industry’s sale of more and more genetically engineered crops while guaranteeing that 2,4-D use on our farmland will increase tremendously. The EPA’s heedless refusal to properly assess the impacts of expanded on human health, to the toxic chemicals associated with this herbicide, and failure to acknowledge any of the deadly effects on endangered wildlife, is grossly irresponsible – we intend to stop it.”
“This case will determine to a large extent the direction of U.S. agriculture in the coming years,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety. “EPA and USDA have bowed to the chemical industry and rubber stamped these genetically engineered crops whose sole purpose is to promote ever more herbicide use and fatten the bottom line of Dow and Monsanto. Unless stopped, these crops will lead to a massive increase in the spraying of toxic chemicals and an increasing plague of herbicide resistant weeds that will choke America’s farmlands and threaten the livelihoods of our farmers.”
“EPA’s unfortunate decision to approve Enlist Duo for use on genetically engineered crops will more than triple the amount of 2,4-D sprayed in the U.S. by the end of this decade,” said Environmental Working Group’s senior policy analyst Mary Ellen Kustin. “Such an increase of a known toxic defoliant linked to Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and reproductive problems is unconscionable.”
“The toxic treadmill has to stop,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “EPA and USDA cannot continue to ignore the history, science, and public opinion surrounding these dangerous chemicals so that a failed and unnecessary system of chemically-dependent agriculture can continue to destroy our health and environment.”
“When the EPA approved Enlist Duo, it knew this pesticide would contaminate our streams and rivers,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There is absolutely no doubt that the pesticide will harm dozens of endangered species like the American burying beetle, pallid sturgeon, and highly-endangered freshwater mussels.”
On September 16, 2014, the USDA issued its decision deregulating Enlist corn and soy, further paving the way for the EPA to approve the herbicide’s use on these crops. During the official public comment period on the USDA’s analysis of 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans this spring, 400,000 citizens submitted comments opposing the crops. In June, another half million people sent their objections to EPA during their public comment period. Just this last month, a quarter million people told the White House to reject Enlist crops and Enlist Duo. Earthjustice collected more than 125,000 of the comments logged against the agency’s authorization for use of the powerful herbicide.
Betsy Lopez-Wagner, Earthjustice (415) 217-2159
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network (916) 588-3100
Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity (202) 817-8121
Aimee Simpson, Beyond Pesticides (202) 543-5450 ext. 19
Kathy Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition (202) 421-4544
Shannon Van Hoesen, Environmental Working Group (202) 939-9141
World Trade Organization Rules Against Popular U.S. Country-of-Origin Meat Labels on Which Consumers Rely
Compliance Panel Says U.S. Policy Still Violates WTO Despite Changes Made to Comply With 2012 WTO Order; U.S. Should Not Change COOL Policy
NOTE: Public Citizen will hold a press briefing about this ruling on the morning of Thursday, October 23. Speakers will include Roger Johnson (president, National Farmers Union), Lori Wallach (director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch), Elizabeth J. Drake (partner, Stewart & Stewart), Patrick Woodall (research director, Food & Water Watch) and a representative of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. Stay tuned for the teleconference number and more information.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today’s ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel against U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policies sets up a no-win dynamic, and the Obama administration should appeal the ruling, Public Citizen said.
If the administration were to weaken COOL, U.S. consumers would lose access to critical information about where their meat comes from at a time when consumer interest in such information is at an all-time high and opposition would only grow to the administration’s beleaguered trade agenda. If the administration again were to seek to comply with the WTO by strengthening COOL, then Mexico and Canada – the two countries that challenged the policy – likely would continue their case, even though cattle imports from Canada have increased since the 2013 strengthening of the policy.
The ruling further complicates the Obama administration’s stalled efforts to obtain Fast Track trade authority for two major agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both of these pacts would expose the United States to more such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies.
“Many Americans will be shocked that the WTO can order our government to deny U.S. consumers the basic information about where their food comes from and that if the information policy is not gutted, we could face millions in sanctions every year,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Today’s ruling spotlights how these so called ‘trade’ deals are packed with non-trade provisions that threaten our most basic rights, such as even knowing the source and safety of what’s on our dinner plate.”
The WTO compliance panel decided that changes made in May 2013 to the original U.S. COOL policy in an effort to make it comply with a 2012 WTO ruling against the law are not acceptable and that the modified U.S. COOL
policy still constitutes a “technical barrier to trade.” The panel decided that the strengthened COOL policy afforded less favorable treatment to cattle and hog imports from Canada and Mexico, despite a 52 percent increase in U.S. imports of cattle from Canada under the modified policy. The panel stated that the alleged difference in treatment did not “stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions.”
The United States has one chance to appeal this decision before the WTO issues a final, binding ruling. Under WTO rules, if the U.S. appeal fails, Canada and Mexico would be authorized to impose indefinite trade sanctions against the United States unless or until the U.S. government changes or eliminates the popular labeling policy.
Today’s ruling follows a string of recent WTO rulings against popular U.S. consumer and environmental policies. In May 2012, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labels<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-dolphin-tuna-5-16-12.pdf> that, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against a U.S. ban on clove-, candy- and chocolate-flavored cigarettes <http://www.citizen.org/documents/release-on-wto-cigarette-ruling-4-4-12.pdf>, enacted to curb youth smoking. In each of those cases, U.S. policy changes made to comply with the WTO’s decisions also have been challenged before WTO panels similar to the one that issued today’s ruling.
“The WTO again ruling against a popular U.S. consumer protection will just spur the growing public and congressional concerns about the big Pacific and European trade deals the administration is now pushing and the Fast Track authority to railroad through Congress more agreements that undermine basic consumer rights,” said Wallach.
The COOL policy was created when Congress enacted mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat – supported by 92 percent of the U.S. public<http://www.greenerchoices.org/pdf/ConsumerReportsFoodLabelingSurveyJune2014.pdf> in a recent poll – in the 2008 farm bill. This occurred after 50 years of U.S. government experimentation with voluntary labeling and efforts by U.S. consumer groups to institute a mandatory program.
In their successful challenge of COOL at the WTO, Canada and Mexico claimed that the program violated WTO limits on what sorts of product-related “technical regulations” signatory countries are permitted to enact. The
initial WTO ruling was issued in November 2011. Canada and Mexico demanded that the United States drop its mandatory labels in favor of a return to a voluntary program or standards set by an international food standards body in which numerous international food companies play a central role. Neither option would offer U.S. consumers the same level of information as the current labels. The United States appealed.
The WTO Appellate Body sided with Mexico and Canada in a June 2012 ruling against COOL<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-wto-rules-against-yet-anohter-consumer-protection-policy-06-29-12.pdf>. The U.S. government responded to the final WTO ruling by altering the policy in a way that fixed the problems identified by the WTO tribunal. However, instead of watering down the popular program as Mexico and Canada sought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded with a rule change<http://www.citizen.org/documents/press-release-USDA-stands-firm-on-COOL-rule.pdf> in May 2013 that strengthened the labeling regime. The new policy provided more country-of-origin information to consumers, which
satisfied the issues raised in the WTO’s ruling. However, Mexico and Canada then challenged the new U.S. policy. With today’s ruling, the WTO has announced its support for the Mexican and Canadian contention that the U.S. law is still not consistent with the WTO rules.