Was That Steak Raised In The USA? Soon, It’ll Be Hard To Know : The Salt : NPR

Source: Was That Steak Raised In The USA? Soon, It’ll Be Hard To Know : The Salt : NPR

If you don’t know what the COOL (Country Of Origin Labeling) was, I don’t blame you. Most of the consumers I’ve talked to didn’t even know the laws existed.

COOL required meat packers to label their products by country of origin. The consumer had to be able to tell if that meat came from the US, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, China or wherever.

This doesn’t sound difficult to do, until you realize that the product in that package could be from two, three or even more places. It’s common practice these days for meat packers to make ground beef from lean meat from one country, mix in fat from another. Or meat from two or more different countries can be included in that stewing beef or chicken pieces package.

It doesn’t sound very controversial, either. Who would possibly object to knowing where their food comes from? I certainly didn’t object to it. I liked the idea. And so do most consumers. We’ve all heard the horror stories about dead pigs floating down rivers in China or the horrific melamine milk contamination that took place a few years ago.

The people who didn’t like it were countries outside the US like Canada and Mexico. They claimed that if they had to label their meat as coming from their country, people in the US might prefer to buy US products instead. And the World Trade Organization that polices such things agreed. So Canada and Mexico were poised to launch a massive increase on tariffs on a variety of US products that would have cost billions of dollars.

So Congress, with some justification, caved in and passed a repeal of COOL on Dec. 18

I have rather strong feelings about this. I rather liked the COOL regulations.

First, consumers seem, to me at least, to have the basic right to know where the products they purchase were made. They also have the right to know what’s in them.

Second, wanting to hide where your product comes from makes me a wee bit suspicious. What exactly is wrong with your product that you feel that if people knew it’s origin they wouldn’t buy it? What are you trying to cover up?

The thing I find most disturbing, though, is that increasingly these treaties are giving outside interests extraordinary power over our internal affairs. In this case, the WTO, Mexico and Canada were able to force a significant change to US law. The Trans Pacific Partnership, which politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have been pushing for hard, makes things even more concerning, giving individual corporations the power to do what Mexico and Canada did here. A corporation could, in theory, sue a country under the TPP, forcing that country to change it’s law.

This seems to be giving an enormous amount of power to not a government which (theoretically at least) is supposed to guard and protect the interests of it’s citizens as a whole, to an entity that cares for nothing but profit, even at the expense of the welfare of the people.