Country of Origin Labeling Conspiracy

I've seen the following meme going around on social media.    

I don't know whether the source is actually March Against Monsanto, but whoever put it out is obviously trying to stoke paranoia without any context or background.  And, like most good lies, the meme contains an element of truth.

First, it is true that both Houses of Congress repealed mandatory country of origin labeling (MCOOL).  This happened about a month ago.  What the meme doesn't revel is why.

MCOOL has been controversial since it's inception more than a decade ago, and the policy was fought by the largest beef and pork producer organizations.  Moreover, our trading partners were less than happy with the law.  Canada and Mexico filed suit with the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming the law represented a non tariff trade barrier.  The USA lost the first round and several appeals (here's the timeline from the WTO).  What the meme doesn't reveal is that if Congress didn't repeal MCOOL then Canada and Mexico could slap on more than a billion dollars in retaliatory tariffs; my understanding is that these tariffs could have been on any products, not just meat.

What's not true about the meme?  

Well, despite the existence of MCOOL, our research shows most consumers didn't know where their beef or pork was coming from anyway; the vast majority of consumer's weren't checking the label.  More importantly, it simply isn't true that "now you will not know which country your meat comes from" simply because the government doesn't require the information.  If consumers really want the information and are willing to pay to have it, why wouldn't a retailer voluntarily advertise origin?  The restaurant chain Wendy's, for example, advertised for a while it only used North American beef.  Lots of small producers sell the animal products they raise at farmers' markets and at local restaurants.  There are thousands of products that voluntarily (without a government mandate) use  the "Made in the USA" logo to try to garner more sales.   There are lots of things I want (a new BMW; a private jet; perhaps origin information on meat), but just because I want something doesn't mean the government should mandate that it be provided. 

For more background, here's a recent report on issues surrounding MCOOL by the Congressional Research Service; here's another recent report summarizing the research on the subject prepared by my friends Glynn Tonsor, Ted Schroeder, and Joe Parcell for the USDA Chief Economist.