Salina, Kansas – A representative from the Food Marketing Institute said last week at the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting that country of origin labeling (COOL) is not a food safety issue. She said it is simply another unimportant marketing designation like “natural” or “humanely raised”. She basically said it is just too much trouble to implement and that consumers really don’t care where their food comes from. Contrary to many surveys and studies, she said consumers only care about price and quality.
Multinational food corporations have long fought against COOL, saying it is another irritating and unnecessary labeling law which only adds costs. What they really mean is their profits from selling cheap imported meat, as domestic, to uninformed and unsuspecting consumers may be over. It shouldn’t cost consumers anything for foreign meat to be labeled and it shouldn’t cost a U.S. rancher anything, in his own country, for his U.S. beef to be labeled as ‘U.S. origin’. Meat packers and retailers are tracking everything from certified Angus to certified Hereford and retailers haven’t run out of bar codes.
COOL is a food safety issue, it’s about food quality, food security and food sovereignty. It also promotes more open and competitive markets. Producers everywhere are being denied fair prices, in their own markets, by the multinational corporate food pirates. Knowing the origin of the food we put into our bodies should be fundamental. Knowing our food is safe and healthy, and that it wasn’t stolen from the person who produced it, makes the U.S. and global food system better.
COOL has been a fight for our freedom to make choices and a test of our representative form of government. It is a key defining time for our nation – whether we will have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Will we continue to see our hard fought legislative victories stolen in the rule making process by global corporations and their deaf, dumb and blind partners in our government agencies (USDA INC.)?
While our trading partners protect their own national interests with balanced and safe trade, and require country of origin labeling in their own countries, our leaders, touting corporate interests, turn the U.S. into a ‘globalization dumping ground’ that bypasses the regulation and inspection required in our domestic food system and is free of the much higher mandated costs forced on U.S. producers. We invite everything to cross our borders, both cheap and dangerous, from the potential of Hoof and Mouth and Mad Cow disease to Chinese melamine. Our government refuses to protect our economic interests, our food safety and our ability to feed ourselves. After more than ten years fighting for COOL we continue to be denied the necessary information to make a choice of how we spend our food dollars and whether those dollars will be spent in our personal and national best interest.
COOL is a test of how far we want our food to travel. It will determine whether we will be able to choose food that is produced close to home, supporting our own family farmers and ranchers, or whether our domestic food system will be eliminated by rigged markets, unfair trade and deceptive labeling, leaving us with no choices.
Exploitation of the earth’s and human resources is done in the name of ‘globalization’: “The unfettered ability of multinational corporations to hunt the globe for the cheapest raw materials, while searching for the hungriest people who will work the cheapest, making and producing things to sell in the highest consuming markets.” The U.S. is home base for corporations touting no-rules globalization – they hate COOL.
It is time for Congress to get COOL right. Congress must send a clear message to USDA to do their job. Congress must stay engaged through the rule making process to ensure the legislative intent is fully met. Additionally, let’s stop all the cheating, from our kitchen tables to our restaurants. Our own farmers and ranchers deserve the opportunity to feed us. Label ALL meat, including retail and processed, from food service to restaurants, with the country of origin so we can support them.
I stated the following in December of 2001: “With [nearly] 20 percent of beef now imported and the co-mingling of product that occurs in large processing plants, consumers deserve to have the information to make healthful and socially-conscious food choices. In addition, American producers, who are increasingly forced to compete with low-cost producers worldwide, deserve to reap the benefits of the wholesomeness and value of their product to the fullest extent possible. Mandatory origin labeling gives domestic producers a key competitive advantage: identification with American quality and values. Increased differentiation of our product in the marketplace also translates into more competitive markets.”
Big Agribusiness, their retail partners and USDA have run roughshod over us long enough. We need meaningful country of origin labeling for food now.