The WTO and the Toxic Food Risk
The problems the United States faces from trade have only increased since the U.S. joined the World Trade Organization in 1995. It has become increasingly more difficult to ensure the safety of food as more and more is imported each year. For this reason, it is important that Americans have the ability to quickly determine where their food is from.
The WTO has increased the amount of food the U.S. imports by restricting America’s ability to regulate trade, and by making it more difficult for Americans to determine where their food comes from. The WTO ruled against the U.S. on country of origin labeling (COOL) laws, saying they represented an illegal barrier to trade. These laws were intended to let Americans know where their food comes from. With the labeling in place, Americans had both the choice to buy food that supported American farmers and to know where their food was coming from for safety reasons.
Americans now get close to 20 percent of the food they consume from overseas. While this is a large percentage, when broken down it becomes even more apparent how dependent Americans are on foreign sources of food. Currently, the U.S. get about two-thirds of its produce and over 80 percent of its seafood from overseas sources. With these huge percentages, and the unknown aspects of food production in many countries, it is increasingly necessary for Americans to know where their food is coming from in order to ensure their own health.
As a result of this WTO ruling, Americans may soon have a harder time determining where their food came from. Unless there is a successful appeal, the U.S. may have to discontinue its COOL regulations or face sanctions from other countries. The laws were called a “protectionist measure” that gave an unfair advantage in the U.S. marketplace to U.S. producers. The only reason it would give American producers an unfair advantage is that U.S. consumers want to purchase products that are made in the United States. If Americans desire easy access to information that tells them they are supporting American farmers and that their food is more likely to be safe, no international body should be able to tell them otherwise.