WTO denies consumers right to know about meat origins; TTIP promises worse
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The World Trade Organization Appellate Body ruled today that the U.S. law requiring country-of-origin labeling for meat violates international trade law. This will deny Americans the right to know where their meat comes from. U.S. Representative Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is expected to quickly introduce a bill to comply with The WTO ruling and roll back the U.S. requirements for country of origin labeling for beef, pork and poultry.
The WTO decision coincides with a hot congressional debate on Fast Track trade promotion legislation. Fast Track would grease the skids for congressional approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade agreements, which promise to include “WTO-plus” rules on consumer product labeling. Those rules threaten even tougher restrictions on government regulations to help consumers make informed decisions about which products to buy. The WTO ruling foreshadows restrictions that the TPP and especially the TTIP agreements may impose on consumer’s right to know about the food they purchase, including whether food contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Lisa Archer, director of Friends of the Earth’s Food and Technology program, made the following comment:
This latest World Trade Organization ruling against country-of-origin labeling for meat assaults our basic right to know what we are feeding our families. The ruling pulls back the curtain and proves without a shadow of doubt that secretive international trade deals like the Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific agreements will undermine food safety, product labeling standards and essential safeguards.
The United States should refuse to comply, as it has in the past when WTO decisions are totally unacceptable. And the U.S. Trade Representative should take food safety and labeling measures off the table in the Pacific and Atlantic trade negotiations.
Finally, to prevent similar attacks on basic protections of our health and environment in the future, Congress must reject Fast Track legislation, which would force votes on these trade deals while prohibiting congressional amendments to keep food safety, labeling and other common sense public health and environmental measures intact.
The WTO tribunal ruled that revisions to U.S. country of origin labeling safeguards made in May 2013 did not conform to a 2012 WTO appellate ruling against the original U.S. law on country-of-origin labeling. There is no further appeal of this WTO Appellate Body decision and it follows in a train of successful WTO challenges in similar cases related to dolphin-safe tuna labeling and sale of clove and candy flavored cigarettes.