The National Farmers Union (NFU) was generally pleased with the Nov. 18 ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which found that Country-of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) is allowable under WTO rules. The labeling law was passed as a part of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 and amended in 2008. COOL requires retailers to notify their customers of the source of certain foods.

After the ruling was announced, NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that WTO agreed that COOL is allowable in principle, giving consumers the right to know the origin of their meat products. NFU has been a long-time advocate for COOL, playing a key role in the negotiations that led to its inclusion in the 2008 farm bill and working with meatpackers to ensure they follow the law’s intent.

“COOL gives consumers the opportunity to make informed food purchases for their families while, at the same time, providing American food producers the opportunity to distinguish their products in the retail marketplace. For example, in 2008, several companies in China were found to be adding melamine to infant formula, leading to kidney stones and renal failure. Consumers have a right to know where their food is coming from so they can choose for themselves the kinds of products they purchase.

“WTO found that the way COOL was initiated in the United States provided less favorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock. Also, WTO’s final ruling stated that COOL label requirements are not clear in all instances. NFU will continue to work closely with the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that COOL is implemented to the fullest extent of the law and in accordance with WTO. If these results are unsatisfactory, then NFU will push to appeal the decision and continue to fight for U.S. consumers, farmers, and ranchers to ensure COOL is allowed to continue for as long as it takes to get this done.”