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Origin labels would help beef consumers keep their COOL

By Dave Frederickson
National Farmers Union president

(Friday, May 22, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- May 20 Canada reported an isolated case of bovine spongiform encephalopothy (BSE), and as a result, cattle futures and industry stock shares plummeted. This is another example of why mandatory country-of-origin food labeling makes sense.

While country-of-origin labeling cannot prevent a disease like BSE, it would help reassure consumers and our markets. Instead of reacting to all beef products when food safety concerns arise, with country-of-origin labeling, consumers would be armed with information to make educated decisions instead of decisions based on fear and doubt. It is a consumerís right to make these choices.

In addition, mandatory country-of-origin labeling would allow U.S. agricultural producers to differentiate themselves from countries that may have disease or food safety concerns. Mandatory COOL will provide an opportunity for the United States to expand the level of consumer choice, confidence and knowledge in the retail marketplace and potentially increase the demand for U.S. origin commodities.

National Farmers Union wants to provide this important information to consumers and, at the same time, protect agricultural producers and processors from unnecessary burdens. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture gathers ideas for implementing mandatory country-of-origin labeling during hearings around the country, Farmers Union and others are providing innovative, farmer-friendly solutions to the questions surrounding COOL.

Recent events should encourage farmers and ranchers even more to stand united to make sure mandatory country-of-origin food labeling is implemented in a way that benefits both consumers and producers.

On behalf of 300,000 farm and ranch families, National Farmers Union (www.nfu.org) works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life for rural citizens through legislative representation, educational opportunities and support for farmer-owned cooperative ventures. Contact NFU at nfunews@nfu.org.