With the passing of the budget in our nation’s capital on December 18th, signed by the President, a law that was passed to protect American consumers was repealed. The law is called COOL, or Country of Origin Labeling. It was part of the Farm Bill passed in 2002, under George W. Bush. The law simply stated that the country of origin should be visible on labels on beef, pork and lamb, and in 2008 extended to fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables, among other things.
With happy consumers shopping for safe and tested American meat and other perishable goods, the corporate world was anything but satisfied. Huge profits were unattainable, with meat products from other countries discriminated against by the consumers. So, they looked at World Trade Organization. As a result, Canada and Mexico sued the U.S. through WTO, and the ruling was against the U.S.
Now, consumers will have their will discounted by the meat companies, who are celebrating the win. Unsafe products from Brazil, for instance, will flood our store shelves, and we won’t even know about it. In Brazil, the latest mad cow disease outbreak was in 2014, and cows have hoof-and-mouth disease, not to mention that the country’s cattle industry is a major driver of deforestation.
What is even more worrisome, is that the people’s collective will is out of the picture. More than 90 percent of Americans supported labeling in 2013, as the poll done by Opinion Research Corporation found. Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, criticized the decision to repeal COOL and the rule of the corporate world in our lives: ““Every trend in food is about transparency and giving the consumer more information, so it’s really upsetting to see Congress take away a mandatory piece of information that we fought to get established… It speaks to the danger of these kinds of trade deals”, hinting to the debate over Trans Pacific Partnership, which would extend similar rules to almost half of the countries, rules that protect and enhance corporate profits.
To make matters worse, the budget of U.S. Department of Agriculture has been decreased several times, which resulted in closures or consolidations of 260 USDA field offices, saving $58 million, according to the agency’s website. That means fewer meat inspections and, in light of the WTO ruling, a possible outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease, which is highly contagious among cattle and very rarely humans and has been long eradicated in the U.S.
In the end, people suffer and stop believing in the democratic process, when a court packed with corporate lawyers decides on our nation’s laws. It’s not just the food issues, democracy and sovereignty is at stake.