Yesterday, my Senator, Chuck Schumer, answered a request I had made to his office to support Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) , albeit through a form letter from a Food Safety advocacy organization. Yes, at least he answered!
But the interesting thing is that:
A. A Republican controlled Congress has voted to repeal this truth-in-labeling law. The National Farmers Union had this to say:
" Country-of-origin labeling: The NFU expects a decision by the World Trade Organization in early December. The WTO will determine how the U.S. Trade Representative must respond to challenges against COOL made by Canada and Mexico.
The NFU supports voluntary labeling, which Johnson said is the only thing that can be salvaged from the original mandatory COOL law. Repealing the law would make it possible for any animal imported to the United States for slaughter to be considered a U.S. product, he said.
"As producers of meat products, we want our name on that product," Johnson said. "We don't want consumers to be deceived into believing this is produced by American farmers and ranchers when in fact it may not be."
" The Trans-Pacific Partnership: The NFU opposes the TPP deal between the United States and 11 other countries.
The biggest concern is that TPP does not deal with the manipulation of currency by countries the United States trades with, he said.
"They make it so that their goods are cheaper to our buyers and our goods are more expensive to their consumers to buy," he said.
Johnson expects the United States to approve TPP or risk losing credibility with its trading partners. It puts the country in a tough spot, he said.
"We approve it, we get screwed because our economy continues to go in the toilet as a consequence of approving another deal that's going to further increase the (trade) deficit," he said. "If we turn it down, we'll lose additional standing in the rest of the world."
Note that the NFU opposes this deal, and wants currency manipulation protection (which economist Dean Baker says is on the "children's table" because of the way it is dealt with in only vague-pledge, unenforceable, terms). However, the NFU misidentifies the will of the governments signing the TPP with the will of the people they supposedly represent. At least in this country there is serious and probably majority opposition to the TPP among those who have formed an opinion about this ponderous 5,500-page bill; they certainly opposed last summer's Fast Track authority, even though that passed, according to polls taken at that time. America's "credibility" would probably be enhanced, not diminished, if its leaders followed the will of the People and rejected the TPP.
Dear Mr. Baker:Thank you for writing to express your support of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). I agree that consumers should be able to know where their food originates.As you may know, COOL is a law that requires food retailers to provide information on the country of origin for certain foods such as beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. In 2009, Canada first challenged COOL at the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming that the law hampered trade between the two countries. After many years and appeals, the WTO has ruled that the COOL legislation does indeed violate trade protocols and that Canada, along with Mexico, will be allowed to impose retaliatory tariffs if the practice continues. I believe we must find a solution that protects consumer's rights in regards to food labeling, while protecting our industries from crippling tariffs that would hurt our trading capacity.Although a repeal of COOL has recently passed in the House of Representatives, it has yet to be introduced in the Senate. Recently, a bill introduced by Senators Hoeven and Stabenow would allow for voluntary COOL labeling. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and although I am not a member of this committee, I look forward to reviewing this legislation on the Senate floor.The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world due to the hard work of government regulatory agencies and the precautions taken by the food industry. Our country's track record of success does not mean, however, that now is a time to rest on our laurels. We must be vigilant in addressing food safety issues as they come and ensure we have the proper regulatory framework to do so. I will continue to fight to ensure that our food remains safe, and that consumers maintain their right to know where their food is coming from.Again, thank you for contacting me regarding this important issue. Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance on this or any other matter.Sincerely,Charles E. SchumerUnited States Senator
B. The other interesting thing, of course, is that we can expect more of this kind of capitulation under TPP
Senator Schumer admits that even under existing WTO and NAFTA agreements the United States has been found guilty of violating trade protocols, even after "years and appeals" made by the U.S. under COOL since 2009 and that other countries would be entitled to retaliate with tariffs if the "practice" - that is, if our properly passed law - is allowed to continue. In short, our Congress and courts have been overruled by a trans-national body favoring industries in other countries. Our sovereignty has already started slipping away.
Now, we don't have the sort of investor-dispute settlement court we will have under the TPP, yet. If TPP passes, we will, and it will be, according to all progressive organizations who have examined the TPP, heavily slanted toward industry positions. So, then it will be countries driven by this court, acting on behalf of companies, that "retaliate," not countries acting on their own for the benefit of their citizens.
This is the kind of law-disabling, anti-consumer action we can expect to see much more of under TPP. It is likely the United States will not even challenge such pro-industry positions after a few defeats like this.
Meanwhile, who knows where your next meal came from?