Opposition to generic food origin label surfaces

Opposition to generic food origin label surfaces

House Ag Committee chairman Mike Conaway opposes proposal to establish mandatory generic label in lieu of country of origin label

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said he would oppose a recommendation to include a "product of North America" label on foods should the World Trade Organization again defeat the U.S. country-of-origin labeling rule.

Related: Lawmakers weigh country-of-origin labeling retaliatory concerns

Conaway's comments come as the USDA last week released two reports regarding country of origin labeling.

One report acknowledges no measurable consumer benefits, and cites costs associated with this label mandate, and the other outlines options to comply with previous WTO decisions, which rejected the U.S. law as being trade distorting, a statement from the House Ag Committee said.

House Ag Committee chairman Mike Conaway opposes proposal to establish mandatory generic label in lieu of country of origin label

In the report concerning compliance options, USDA said if the U.S. loses its latest WTO appeal, COOL will need to be repealed or amended establishing a generic mandatory label for meat. No other options are offered, the Committee statement said.

"The call for a new generic mandatory meat label identifying meat as a product of North America does nothing to help producers, provides no useful information to consumers, and worse, it does nothing to mitigate the threat of retaliation since the idea has already been rejected by our trading partners," Conaway said.

"If the governments of Canada and Mexico do not accept this option, retaliation would continue. Our trading partners have already said this option is unacceptable, so it is perplexing that USDA would ignore basic facts and put forward an approach that would only serve to exacerbate the current situation."

Conaway said in his comments that mandatory COOL for meat ultimately "is a failed experiment which should be repealed."

The House Agriculture Committee, Conaway said, is to provide stability, not to create uncertainty.

Under a generic North American label mandate, if an animal is born, raised and slaughtered in Mexico, Canada, or the United States, or any combination thereof, the meat derived from that animal would be labeled as being a product of North America, the statement said.

Related: U.S. Trade Representative Appeals WTO Decision on COOL

Furthermore, since any action taken by the U.S. to come into compliance would have to be agreed to by Canada and Mexico, previous statements by the Canadian government rejecting a generic North American label mandate should have been factored into USDA's legislative recommendations, Conaway said.

The WTO is expected to issue its ruling on the latest U.S. COOL dispute no later than May 18, 2015.

Source: House Ag Committee Chairman

TAGS: USDA
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