Canada's stamp of disapproval on U.S. food labels

by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca

With several grocery stores a mere bicycle ride away, I have the luxury of choosing one based on my moods. But often, the one that wins out is the one with the eclectic selection … and more importantly, labels on its produce declaring what country it came from. In an age of environmental awareness, I want to know whether my carrots are from Ontario and how far my peaches travelled.

In two short months, our neighbours south of the border will have that luxury. But not all Canadians are envious of the change.

Meat producers in Canada are worried discriminating customers in the U.S. will turn away from their products in favour of local. Plus, they will have to pay a hefty price to conform to the new rules by placing stickers, tags or other labels on their products.

Government estimates put the cost of the so-called COOL (Country of origin labeling) initiative around $2.5 billion the first year and $499 million in maintenance subsequent years.

While consumers are likely to see their food prices rise a few cents as retailers pass on costs, producers are among those likely to shoulder a chunk of the cost, with the department estimating the average U.S. producer will likely fork over $376 a year to label their products. No word on importers.

As a consumer, I'd like Canada to consider such labels. But what's good for the consumer is not always good for the farmer.

And a few local purchases here at home could never make up for the sales for Canadian producers worth billions of dollars in the U.S.

So, I'm torn. Should producers be shouldering part of the bill for country-of-origin labels? And is it worth it to see such labels here at home?