Right now, opponents of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) are working to prevent consumers from finding out where their food comes from. Hiding behind proposals for a “voluntary” labeling program, agribusiness interests and their supporters in Congress are working to reverse an existing law that establishes a mandatory labeling program.
There are two proposed pieces of legislation regarding COOL right now – one in the House and one in the Senate. The impending House bill, supported by industry, would push the voluntary labeling program and should be OPPOSED. The Senate bill, S. 2451, is supported by consumer advocates and small farmers, pushes the mandatory labeling program and should be SUPPORTED.
This is a critical time to let your elected officials know that you support mandatory country-of-origin labeling, and that you want it implemented on schedule, in September 2004.
Here’s what you can do:
- Click here to send an email to your Representative, urging them to oppose a measure that would make COOL voluntary.
- Call your Senators and tell them you support Senate Bill S. 2451 introduced by Senators Daschle and Johnson to implement country-of-origin labeling by the original September 30, 2004 deadline. You can reach your Senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- Congress is in recess this week, which means that your senators and representatives are probably making public appearances in your area. If you see them, let them know you want MANDATORY country-of-origin labeling implemented this year.
The 2002 Farm Bill required the U.S. Department of Agriculture to write rules for Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) of beef, lamb, pork, fish, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and peanuts. The label would be found on foods sold in grocery stores, and would state the food’s country of origin. The rules for mandatory labeling were supposed to go into effect in September 2004.
But since the passage of the Farm Bill, corporate agribusiness, especially the meat and grocery industries, have been trying to delay and ultimately kill COOL. In January, Congress approved a two year delay in implementing the Farm Bill requirements for most foods, postponing mandatory COOL until 2006. Only wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish were exempted and will receive country of origin labels by September 2004.
Mandatory COOL could benefit both consumers, who will be able to make an informed choice and buy food produced closer to home, and producers, who need a way to identify their crops and livestock as products of the United States.
Right now, COOL is a hot issue in both houses of Congress. In the House, members of the Agriculture Committee are threatening to introduce a bill establishing a voluntary program. This would essentially kill the mandatory labeling provisions of the Farm Bill, and leave it up to agribusiness to decide whether or not food gets labeled. Companies are currently allowed to voluntarily label their products, and very few do.
Passing a bill establishing voluntary labeling virtually guarantees that consumers will remain in the dark when it comes to the origin of their food. The opposite situation exists in the Senate, where a bill has been introduced to restore the September 2004 deadline for mandatory COOL.