OTTAWA, ONTARIO — The World Trade Organization (W.T.O.) has established a dispute settlement panel to hear Canada’s challenge to the U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (C.O.O.L.). The announcement was made by Stockwell Day, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

"Our assessments are showing us that C.O.O.L. is having a negative impact on Canadian farmers and livestock producers," Mr. Day said. "We continue to stand up for the rights of Canadian producers during the dispute-settlement process and make the case that the U.S. should lift these onerous requirements."

The request for a W.T.O. panel is Canada’s next step in its continued efforts to defend Canada’s exports and producers, Mr. Ritz added.

Both men said C.O.O.L. "imposes unfair and unnecessary costs on integrated North American supply chains, reducing competitiveness in both Canada and the U.S. and creating confusion and uncertainty for livestock industries on both sides of the border." The W.T.O. dispute settlement panel will be asked to determine whether the C.O.O.L. measures are consistent with the U.S.’ W.T.O. trade obligations.

As part of the U.S. Food, Conservation and Energy Act of June 2008, the U.S. passed legislation imposing mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef, pork, lamb, chicken and goat meat and certain perishable commodities sold at retail outlets in the U.S. This legislation was implemented on Sep. 30, 2008, on the basis of an interim final rule. This was then replaced by a final rule that entered into force on March 16.

In order for meat to be labeled as a product of the U.S., all production activities (birth, rearing and slaughtering) have to occur in the U.S. For meat derived from animals of different national origins, the label must indicate the country or countries involved. For covered commodities, including beef and pork, C.O.O.L. requires the country of each stage of production to be tracked and recorded.

"In the context of the integrated North American beef and pork supply chains, C.O.O.L. has resulted in additional and unnecessary costs being imposed on Canadian cattle and hog exports," the Canadian government charged. "U.S. processors, for instance, have to segregate Canadian animals and the meat from these animals at their facilities, which generates additional costs. Because of these additional costs, some processors no longer buy Canadian animals, buy them only on certain days or buy them at a discounted price."

The W.T.O. panel is expected to issue its opinion on this matter next summer or early fall.