By: Julie Reiser
Recently, we as a country celebrated our independence and pride in our American history. Every year like clockwork in town’s big and small all across this great land, we as a people come together, united in celebrating our Nations birthday. This year as families celebrated by the pool, with barbequing and fireworks- thoughts of our Nation’s problems seemed to fade and for a moment we celebrated all that is good in America, past and present.
But, when the fireworks and the music stopped, we once again returned to our homes, businesses and lives and the very real problems that have indeed not disappeared but, still remain demanding to be addressed. Our Nations exploding debt problem, disastrous unemployment numbers, lack of any real job creation and the burgeoning foreclosure crisis while our Government seem endlessly locked in constant on-going debate.
As the very serious “Debt Issue” debate in Congress seems to grab the headlines, many other important issues are not even a “bleep” on the media radar. Let’s take for instance that recently, the WTO (World Trade Organization) issued a preliminary ruling against the use of the United States mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL Act) on agricultural products like meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables. For those of you that were not aware- the Country of Origin mandatory labeling requirement on agricultural products and food only became a mandatory law in 2009.
This WTO Preliminary Ruling has not made the nightly new or the front page of most papers- but, certainly should be, as this ruling is the beginning of a very slippery slope that our Nation is on.
The Country of Origin Labeling ACT (COOL) was a hard fought law on the part of consumer advocacy groups against many “big U.S. food” associations & multi-national lobbying groups that felt the labeling was not necessary and that “consumers didn’t care about the fine print of where their food came from”. However, despite big businesses staunch opposition, the requirement became law in 2009, and enabled consumers to see where the food they were buying was coming from.
The Country of Origin labeling law allows consumers to make informed purchasing decisions for themselves and their families, and provides helpful information in case of a re-call or bacterial contamination like just happened on a massive scale with Germany and the largest E-Coli outbreak in history. You would think that consumers should have the “right” to know where their food comes from, but, apparently the WTO, Canada, and Mexico don’t agree, they feel it is a “barrier to trade”.
Just a few short months after this law was passed in 2009, Canada and Mexico filed a lawsuit against the United States with the WTO, saying that the United States was in in violation of fair trade regulations and that as a member country of the WTO, the United States has agreed to adhere to WTO rules and regulations. Canada and Mexico argued that this labeling law gave the United States an unfair advantage over products from Mexico and Canada. The WTO agrees with them and issued a preliminary ruling on May 20, 2010 with a formal ruling which will likely be made sometime in September.
There are many things that bother me about this ruling, but, particular after just celebrating our Nations July 4th holiday and our “independence” as a Nation. I can’t help but think of how our founding forefathers fought so desperately, with their lives and fortunes on the line so, that our country would have the freedom to create our own Government and our own laws. Now on the 235th birthday of our independence, we are looking at the fact that an outside organization like the World Trade Organization or the United Nations could decide what laws we can and can’t pass to protect our citizens.
To me, this is the scariest part of this ruling. If we allow a group of people, and nations, to dictate what laws we can and can’t pass in this country, are we no longer a “sovereign nation”? Is the United States of America a “free” and “independent” Nation?
Or…while the world is busy watching Congress fight, or the tragedy of the Casey Anthony trial….is our freedom and independence being swiftly and silently being taken away while no one is paying attention?
In honor of our countries 235th birthday of independence and freedom, contact your congressmen and women and let them know you are here, you are watching and we must protect our citizen’s rights!
Country of Origin labeling is a hard fought right for American consumers; giving them the power to choose and make informed decisions on the food they feed their family. No other country, organization, or group of people should be able to strip Americans of this right. For if we allow this to happen….what my fellow Americans is next?
About the Author: Julie Reiser is the President & Co-Founder of Made in USA Certified, Inc. (www.usa-c.com), the leading, bi-partisan, independent, third party certification company for the claims “Made in USA”, “Product of USA” and “Service in USA”.
(1) Source: Original article that appeared in Drovers Cattle Network 5/27/11: http://info.usa-c.com/2011/06/02/wto-rules-against-u-s-cool-program/
(2) Source: Guardian, UK – E coli Outbreak: Germany Reports more Deaths. 6/8/11: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/08/e-coli-germany-more-deaths
(3) Source: Illinois Farm Bureau– Big Beef’s stance 6/3/11: http://www.ilfb.org/viewdocument.asp?did=20188&r=0.9453089
(4) Source: Wikipedia – Kevin’s Law- H.R. 3160: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin’s_Law