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Canada to challenge US food labelling law at the WTO

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “After months of fruitless talks with the Obama administration, Canada wants the World Trade Organization to settle a dispute over a new U.S. food-labelling law…”

“Trade Minister Stockwell Day said yesterday that he has asked a WTO dispute settlement panel to determine whether U.S. country-of-origin labelling rules impose ‘unfair and unnecessary’ costs on Canadian farmers. …Once a WTO dispute resolution panel is set up, a ruling typically takes nine months. But appeals could keep the case going for years.”

“Exporters warn that such rules are conspiring to make the Canada-U.S. border thicker, undermining long-standing ties within integrated industries. …U.S. processors are simply choosing not to buy in Canada, rather than dealing with the cost and complexity of the rules, according to Canadian pork producers.”

“U.S. officials counter that country-of-origin regulations are common around the world.”

Back on May 7, CBC reported that, “Canada has asked the World Trade Organization to restart formal consultations with Washington about about a U.S. country-of-origin meat-labelling law…”

“The legislation, which was implemented in the U.S. on an interim basis in September and became full law in March, requires meat processed in the U.S. but made from Canadian livestock to be labelled as Canadian rather than simply North American as has been the case to date.”

“The legislation requires country-of-origin labelling on beef, pork, lamb, chicken, goat meat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, perishable agricultural commodities, peanuts, pecans, ginseng and macadamia nuts.”

“The law is aimed at helping consumers protect their health by avoiding foods from countries experiencing food-borne illnesses.”

The May 7 campaign blog is at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=461. Today’s Globe and Mail article is at http://www.globeinvestor.com/servlet/story/GAM.20091008.IBTRADE08ART1910/GIStory/.

For Food and Water Watch analysis on this, please go to http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/consumer-labels.