Diligently reporting on issues surrounding food safety, Food Safety News reports that the World Trade Organization has struck down country-of-origin labeling (also known as COOL) for world food products in the U.S.
In November, the World Trade Organization ruled that country-of-origin labeling, included as law in the 2008 Farm Bill, is a technical barrier to free trade and therefore violates trade agreements the United States has with other countries including Mexico and Canada.
Food Safety News notes that when country-of-origin labeling became American law, both Canada and then Mexico complained to the WTO, claiming country-of-origin labeling discouraged imports of their foods.
As a result, COOL slowly worked its way through the WTO appeal process of naming hearing panels and filing various written and oral arguments.
The final judgment from the World Trade Organization is that country-of-origin labeling is a “technical barrier to trade,” a provision the U.S. agreed to when signing a treaty preventing technical barriers to trade in 1979.
In a statement, the U.S. Trade Representative said the White House office was happy meat was an exception from the decision.
“We are pleased that the panel affirmed the right of the United States to require country of origin labeling for meat products,” said Andrea Mead, press secretary for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
“Although the panel disagreed with the specifics of how the United States designed those requirements, we remain committed to providing consumers with accurate and relevant information with respect to the origin of meat products that they buy at the retail level. In that regard we are considering all options, including appealing the panel’s decision.”
The U.S. has 60 days to appeal. And while the U.S. could ignore the WTO decision, Canada and Mexico could ask for tariffs to offset their losses.
Although meat will still be listed by country-of-origin, all other food products will not, such as honey, which is especially troubling considering that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t real honey, most of which is from China.
Ultra filtering, which completely removes pollen and can only be achieved with that process, is a variation of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have for years illegally unloaded tons of their honey on the U.S. market, some of which contains illegal antibiotics.
The contents of pollen in honey is the only fail-safe method of identifying the honey’s source, and is the only reason why the pollen is removed. Food scientists and honey specialists agree pollen is the only foolproof fingerprint to a honey’s source.
“It’s no secret to anyone in the business that the only reason all the pollen is filtered out is to hide where it initially came from and the fact is that in almost all cases, that is China,” said Adee.
Gaia Health notes that if you’d like to know that the honey on a supermarket shelf did not come from China where much of it is often contaminated with lead, and antibiotics, “well, that’s just too bad. You don’t have a right to know.”
The WTO Undermines National Sovereignty
The World Trade Organization’s ruling should acutely alarm Americans for a variety of reasons. First of all, the WTO is not a democratic institution, and yet its policies not only supersede American law (like the 2008 Farm Bill mandating Country-Of-Origin Food Labeling), but the laws of all sovereign countries who are WTO members [see map].
The World Trade Organization was established in 1995 following the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. The WTO then transformed into a new global commerce agency with the same legal status as the United Nations.
As Gaia Health astutely points out: The real [WTO] purpose is to make the world safe for multinational corporations, who now have control over virtually every aspect of our lives by promoting and instituting treaties that are implemented via the WTO and the United Nations.
“Most food is now produced or distributed through multinational corporations. Because of regulations being brought into effect now at the behest of multinational corporations through their agents, the WTO and UN, along with the governments of nations that are now wholly owned by corporate money, our right even to know what’s in our food or where it comes from has been destroyed.”
Third World Traveler, a website with an archive of articles and book excerpts about American democracy, media, and foreign policy, explains further:
“The WTO is empowered to enforce global commerce rules with the imposition of economic sanctions. The WTO’s rules cover food and environmental standards, regulation of services such as insurance and transport, how the government can use tax dollars, copyright and patent law, farm policy, and more.
“The WTO expands key aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to the entire world. Like NAFTA, the WTO vests panels staffed by trade bureaucrats with the power to enforce its binding rules. And like NAFTA, WTO rules may challenge a country’s laws if they pose barriers to trade and investment.
“The WTO’s tribunals conduct WTO challenge cases in secret. Even briefs from the public are only accepted by WTO panels if endorsed by a government. Furthermore, only national governments are allowed to participate, so a state attorney general could only assist with defense of a challenge against a state law, if invited to do so.”