DENVER – Supporters of mandatory Country-of-Origin-Labeling laws are asking a US District Court in Denver to overturn a decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which struck down the COOL Act on grounds the law violated trade agreements.
Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), has joined the Made in the USA Foundation in a lawsuit challenging the WTO decision. They are asking the court to declare the WTO’s ruling to be contrary to US law. US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
“R-CALF USA is proud to join as a co-plaintiff with the Made in the USA Foundation in our lawsuit to protect and preserve the right of all Americans to know the origins of their food,” said Mike Schultz, a regional director and COOL committee chair for R-CALF. “This was a right given to US citizens when Congress passed into law and the President signed the Country-of-Origin Labeling Act in 2002.”
COOL labels became mandatory in March 2009. US consumer groups and some agriculture groups supported the measure, saying consumers should have information to distinguish foreign from domestic food products. Meat processors opposed COOL on concerns it would raise costs and disrupt trade.
Canada and Mexico leveled the original complaint against COOL in 2008. A dispute resolution panel ruled in November 2011 that the COOL violated WTO rules on technical barriers to trade. The US appealed the panel’s findings in March.
In its ruling, the WTO Appellate Body said the mandatory COOL violated trade agreements “by according less favorable treatment to imported Canadian cattle and hogs than to like domestic cattle and hogs.” The Appellate Body also agreed that the COOL “has a detrimental impact on imported livestock because its recordkeeping and verification requirements create an incentive for processors to use exclusively domestic livestock, and a disincentive against using like imported livestock.”