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The BSE, COOL and GMO commonalities

by Richard R. Oswald
Missouri farmer

(Thursday, June 5, 2003 -- CropChoice guest commentary) -- BSE and COOL have one thing in common. T he cause and effect of both are widely disputed. It is difficult for me to understand why any US producer would oppose COOL. Wade Zimmerman, in his May 21 letter to DTN, praises NCBA for it's handling of the BSE situation in Canada. NCBA and other producer organizations have become quite adept at issuing press releases. While Mr. Zimmerman's praise of NCBA is not unearned, I would have expected that response from them at the very least. The response form R-Calf was equally predictable and expected. The advantages of labeling in this instance were obvious.To say that R-Calf's Leo McDonnell is guilty of opportunism is a little harsh. Many proponents of COOL have tried to illustrate the hazards to US producers of being lumped in with other world producers who lack the quality and commitment of our own ag industry. The recent unfortunate discovery of BSE in Canada was just the hair of the same old dog that has bitten us before.

It seems to me that everyone on the opposing side of the COOL issue talks out both sides of their respective mouths. While saying on the one hand that labeling is too costly, too complicated, and too politically incorrect, they then seem to reverse themselves by touting the superiority of US production and the preference of consumers for our home grown product.

If my production is due recognition from discerning consumers then how can I receive preference if my product is unidentifiable?

In a May 22 DTN On Air article written by Cheri Zagurski, Steve Kay is quoted as saying "One of the ironies to me is that the US industry is tearing itself apart over Cool when it would be better served building demand for beef worldwide." Mr. Kay goes on to say, "US beef is by far the best I've ever eaten........We ought to let it stand on it's own merits." Wouldn't that be a good argument to use in favor of labeling?

Steve Kay seems to feel that COOL is a non-issue while others outright oppose it. Most if not all producer organizations in this country have chosen names for themselves that begin either with National or American. I know of no producer group collecting checkoff dollars from US producers that claims to represent world producers. If they did it would seem logical that American producers would revolt. Producer organizations have no trouble using their own country of origin as a way to wring loyalty and dollars out of producers. All the groups I can think of point with pride to the fact that they represent the American producer. Be it grains, oilseeds, or meats, no group seems to shun the US label when their pocketbooks will benefit. So why can't the groups that we support, support us?

In my opinion, most of the opposition to labeling domestic products stems from the current administration's opposition to labeling of GMOs by our overseas customers. Robert Zoellick says they can't label, therefore neither can we. In order that Mr. Zoellick may ram an unwanted product down the throats of European consumers we must, all of us, remain anonymous. That is a poor strategy and one that should be rethought.

Richard Oswald farms in Langdon, Missouri and can be reached at roswald@rpt.coop.