UPDATE 1-U.S. revises meat-labeling rules to satisfy WTO ruling

Thu May 23, 2013 12:12pm EDT

(Updates with Canadian, other reactions)
    WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. government will
require meat packers to explicitly list the origin of beef, pork
and chicken sold in U.S. grocery stores, it said on Thursday, a
regulation intended to resolve years of disputes with Canada and
Mexico.
    But Canada's agriculture minister said it will continue to
fight the country of origin labeling rules (COOL) which he said
had contributed to a sharp decline in Canadian cattle and pig
exports, setting up a possible trade war. 
    The Obama administration unveiled the new rule on the final
day to comply with a World Trade Organization decision, issued
in June 2012, that upheld complaints by Canada and Mexico.
    Under the new regulation, labels will carry labels such as
"Born, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States" for U.S.
animals. Meat from other countries could carry labels such as,
"Born in Mexico, Raised and Slaughtered in the United States."
    No commingling of meat from various nations will be allowed.
    "The United States remains committed to ensuring that
consumers are provided with information about the origin of
muscle cut meats they buy at the retail level," the U.S.
Department of Agriculture said in a statement.
    The revised rules take effect immediately, however the USDA
will allow a six-month grace period for compliance.
    In the original rule, which took effect in March 2009,
packages could carry labels saying the meat was from the United
States and other nations.
    Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the changes
are disappointing, and don't comply with WTO rules.
    Ritz said one of Canada's options under consideration is
asking the WTO to approve retaliation against U.S. products,
but he would not say which products Canada would most likely
target. In the past, he has said Canada would likely aim at more
goods than just U.S. meat.
    "We have no intention of backing off or backing down, if the
Americans think this is a game of chicken," Ritz said. "We will
do everything within our power to make sure they understand that
both Canadian industry as well as American industry (are)
totally rejecting what they came forward with today."
    COOL was backed by U.S. consumer groups and some U.S. farm
groups. It was opposed by trade groups representing U.S. cattle
and hog producers and foodmakers.
    "People have the right to know where the food they feed
their families comes from," said Wenonah Hauter, executive
director of Food and Water Watch.
    But Scott George, a Wyoming cattle producer and president of
the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the USDA's
action risks retaliatory action against U.S. beef, which would
be "devastating" for farmers.

 (Reporting by Charles Abbott; additional reporting by Rod
Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Theopolis Waters in Chicago;
editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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