Corporate trade deals like the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been used to undermine or eliminate U.S. consumer and environmental rules for years, and last week it took a swipe at both. A WTO trade tribunal ruled against the U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labels.
Before dolphin-safe labels were in place, millions were killed when fishermen pursued the schools of tuna that congregate near dolphin pods, scooping up both in their nets. The WTO dolphin-tuna case has been simmering for decades — the first trade challenge dates back to 1991, a year after the United States first implemented the labels. The WTO has consistently ruled against the labels and in response, the United States has been steadily weakening the rules to try to comply.
Trade panels could quickly trump other commonsense food labels too. In a few weeks the WTO will issue its final ruling on Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef and pork and it is expected to favor meatpackers, not meat-eaters. Farmers and food advocates have been fighting to protect COOL from this WTO attack, but another WTO loss will make it even harder to protect these commonsense labels.