U.S.-Colombia FTA Set to Take Effect on May 15
President Obama and Colombian President Santos Juan Manuel Santos have announced that the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will enter into force on May 15.
Under the terms of the trade pact, more than 80 percent of industrial and manufactured products exported from the U.S. and Colombia will immediately become duty free, making it cheaper for American businesses to sell their goods to the South American country. More than half of U.S. agriculture exports to Colombia will also become duty free, including wheat, barley, soybeans, high-quality beef, bacon and nearly all fruits and vegetables.
“This agreement will provide American businesses, farmers and ranchers with significantly improved access to the third largest economy in South America,” U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk remarked.
Burger King Commits to Cage-Free Chickens and Pigs
Chalking up a victory for animal welfare activists seeking to get livestock out of cramped cages, Burger King announced that it will become the first major U.S. fast-food chain to give all of its chickens and pigs some room to roam.
The world’s second-biggest burger chain pledged that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017, hoping to satisfy rising consumer demand for humanely produced fare and increase its sales in the process.
Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in “battery cages,” which give them roughly the same space as a sheet of standard notebook paper. Most pork comes from sows confined in narrow crates during their four-month pregnancies. The hens would still be housed in a barn, but they will have room to move and perches and nesting boxes. Sows will also be held indoors, but they would not be confined to the cramped crates while they are pregnant.
Burger King handles hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually, and its decision could be a game-changing move in the supply business as a huge new market opens up for humanely raised food animals.
California Bill Aims to Prevent Seafood Fraud
The California Senate Committee on Health has passed SB 1486 (Lieu- D), a seafood labeling bill with important ramifications for human health, environmental sustainability, and consumer protection.
According to Senator Lieu, the bill “would help protect public health and the environment while providing consumers a more accurate understanding of the source of the seafood they eat in restaurants.” He added that, “Despite federal attempts to require point-of-origin labeling, the source of much of the seafood Californians eat remains a potentially dangerous mystery.”
SB 1486 would require chain restaurants with 19 or more locations to provide consumers with key information about the seafood they are served, including the scientific common name of the seafood; the country in which the seafood was raised or caught; and whether the seafood was farm-raised or wild-caught.
International advocacy group Oceana states that seafood fraud in California is a more prevalent issue than previously thought. For example, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times reported that genetic testing of seafood samples collected by Oceana last year in Los Angeles and Orange Counties found shockingly high frequencies of seafood fraud at multiple points of sale.
Specifically, 55 percent of seafood purchased by Oceana from grocery stores, restaurants, and sushi venues combined were fraudulently mislabeled according to federal guidelines, with sushi restaurants having the highest rate of fraud (87 percent). In many cases, the mislabeling obscured key information relevant to health advice by the FDA. And, while the U.S. imports approximately 84 percent of its seafood, according to a 2009 government audit, less than 0.001 percent was inspected for seafood fraud.