Country of Origin Labeling

The WTO recently ruled against the US in the latest dispute over mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL).  Their latest ruling cites work I've conducted with Glynn Tosnor, Ted Schroeder, and Mykel Taylor at Kansas State, among others (not necessarily in an uncritical light).

In any event, I was skeptical of the way the US chose to respond to the original finding that they were out of compliance with the WTO, and the latest finding seems to only reinforce those views.

Darren Hudson had a few thoughts on the issue, with which I largely agree: 

Overall, Lusk and Anderson found that modest increases in total beef demand (2-3%) would offset any producer costs [Lusk note: subsequent research by Taylor and Tonsor have found no demand response to MCOOL]. But are we focused too myopically on U.S. beef/meat? If we step back and truly think about consumers and the functioning of markets, we have a highly integrated North American livestock complex. Does it help the consumer more to be able to identify which cattle are born in the U.S., or to have an efficient, lower cost movement of livestock to production and processing areas with comparative advantage to do those functions? That includes things like harmonized health and safety inspections and transport rules. Does COOL put a wedge between us and our North American partners so that we do not get those benefits simply for the possible benefit that someone out there would buy a rib-eye steak over another because it was born in the U.S.

The COOL ruling gives us a moment to step back and take stock of what is really important in this argument. I know there are those that value the information provided by the label, and I know there are those that are harmed by it. But we need to think big, strategically, and long-term if we are to remain competitive globally.