May 2015— It took more than a decade to pass and include in the 2008 Farm Bill the mandate to label all foods with Country of Origin (COOL) information. Yet this month, the World Trade Organization (WTO) began to chip away at one of COOL’s most important parts—the one pertaining to the labeling of meat products (beef, pork and poultry)—when that organization ruled against letting health-minded consumers protect themselves by making safe choices based on these farm animals’ places and conditions of birth, their feed and the environment in which they were raised.
It is unconscionable that instead of protecting the nation’s health, Congress seems to have caved to pressure from what (many suspect) are some legislators’ corporate constituents and various moneyed interests in this matter. How else could one interpret the introduction of bill HR 2393 by K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, aimed at repealing mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for the above-mentioned meat products—and the Committee’s even more egregious vote to approve the bill by an overwhelming margin?
All is not lost, however, if enough well-informed consumers push back by using arguments based on solid, factual data (such as provided, for example by The Center for Food Safety’s link: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1881/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16819), the original, hard-fought Country of Origin labeling mandate might survive.
The days are gone, alas, when merely paying attention, being well-informed, ‘vetting’ candidates and voting in every election were enough to support our more or less democratic system of checks and balances. Now we must adopt a more proactive stance and use additional weapons in the fight to have our voices heard when we speak truth to power. To argue successfully for consumers’ right to protect their health when grocery shopping, we must build credibility by doing our homework, sticking to facts and ‘keep punching.’
To acquire real clout and visibility, we need to sign petitions, stay in touch with elected officials, fight secrecy (such as the one currently shrouding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations, which also puts public health and the environment on the line), and standing up in the press and elsewhere for our right to have a safe and healthy food supply.
The good news is that participating hands-on in our welfare is quite empowering—especially these days when technology, media and money are competing with our ability to stay in control of our lives.