A World Trade Organization panel ruled this week that US “dolphin-safe” labels violate free-trade agreements with Mexico. “The U.S. can appeal the decision, so it’s not necessarily final,” reports the Daily Green.
Mexican fishermen want to sell their tuna catch to the big US companies including StarKist. Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch expresses concern that the WTO is targeting voluntary labels. It’s unclear if all “dolphin-safe” labels are banned or just those of the major tuna producers that are expected to purchase catches from Mexican fishermen.
The WTO has posted an essay, “Labels that Tell Stories: Building Bridges Between Producers and Consumers,” by Jorge Larson Guerra, on its website and how labels educate consumers about the food they eat: “Ecolabeling is about rationality in resource use and consumption, about being true in our claims. It is a practice respectful of our fellow citizens in distant lands, and future times.”
If your tuna is not troll-caught, the catch might not be safe for dolphins and other species. All St Jude albacore is troll-caught and dolphin-safe. We have a lot of labels on hand, and if the dolphin-safe category is designated as illegal, St Jude albacore will remain dolphin safe! Even if we can’t say so on our labels!
Click here for the WTO summary of the dispute: “the Panel found that Mexico had demonstrated that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions are more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfil the legitimate objectives of (i) ensuring that consumers are not misled or deceived about whether tuna products contain tuna that was caught in a manner that adversely affects dolphins and (ii) contributing to the protection of dolphins, by ensuring that the US market is not used to encourage fishing fleets to catch tuna in a manner that adversely affects dolphins, taking account of the risks non-fulfilment would create. The Panel’s conclusion was based on the following two findings: (i) the findings that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions only partly address the legitimate objectives pursued by the United States and (ii) the finding that Mexico had provided the panel with a less trade restrictive alternative capable of achieving the same level of protection of the objective pursued by the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions.”