(Sept. 24) An eye for an eye. Retaliatory measure. Trade barrier.

Even playing field. Fair trade. Free trade.

No matter what you call it, it’s the latest salvo in the wars between the Florida and Canadian greenhouse tomato industries.

The Florida Tomato Committee, Orlando, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to amend its marketing order to remove the exemption for greenhouse and hydroponic product. Doing so would likely wipe the popular Canadian cluster tomatoes from the U.S. market because they wouldn’t meet minimum size requirements.

Now, ignoring the fact that the North American Tomato Trade Working Group was formed in March to work out issues such as this, consider the ramifications of such an action.

Florida tomato growers, shippers and marketers gain a distinct edge in the winter tomato market, making them essentially the only game in town. No one can blame them for wanting that.

Canadian producers certainly lose, given the loss of a substantial portion of their market.

But the real losers are consumers. In an industry where companies purport to desire an increase in consumption, to focus on consumer preference and to emphasize taste over technical attributes, what does this move really say?

It says: That’s all fine in theory, but if my product isn’t in favor with consumers, let’s fight tooth and nail to keep the other guys out.

And so the tomato wars, thought to be essentially over just two months ago, are back on.