Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov17/12)
13 November 2017
Third World Network
No consensus on proposed MC11 decision on pesticide residues
Published in SUNS #8571 dated 9 November 2017
Geneva, 8 Nov (Kanaga Raja) - A proposed decision by Kenya, Uganda
and the United States on pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs) sought
to be tabled before ministers at the upcoming WTO's eleventh ministerial
conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires has failed to garner consensus.
This became evident at a formal meeting of the Committee on Sanitary
and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) on 2-3 November.
The proponents have circulated the latest revision of their proposal
(G/SPS/W/292/Rev.2) which contains a set of five recommendations that
stem from a workshop on pesticide MRLs held by the SPS Committee last
year, as well as a proposed Ministerial Decision that the proponents
have invited the SPS Committee to endorse for transmission to MC11.
The proposal was earlier discussed at an informal meeting of the SPS
Committee on 1 November.
According to trade officials, the five recommendations mooted by the
proponents in their proposal include:
1. Increasing the capacity and efficiency of Codex Alimentarius in
setting international standards on pesticide MRLs;
2. Improving transparency and predictability in Members' setting of
3. Sharing information on international and regional efforts to harmonize,
streamline, and improve MRL setting processes;
4. Enabling greater access to lower-risk pesticides and pesticides
for minor-use crops, particularly in developing countries; and
5. Discussing the role of the SPS Committee in increasing coordination
The proposed Ministerial Decision annexed to the proposal (G/SPS/W/292/Rev.2)
"The Ministerial Conference decides as follows:
"We recognize the work undertaken by the SPS Committee to examine
pesticide-related issues that have an adverse impact on international
trade in food and agricultural products, and to achieve consensus
on collaborative actions to reduce that impact on trade, particularly
on the agricultural exports of developing countries. We affirm the
central importance of risk analysis to assess, manage and communicate
[risks of concern] [risks] associated with pesticide use in order
to protect public health while enabling the safe use of pesticides
and facilitating trade in food and agricultural products. We endorse
the consensus reached in the SPS Committee on voluntary actions by
Members to increase the capacity and efficiency of Codex in setting
international standards on pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs);
to improve transparency and predictability in Members' setting of
national MRLs; to achieve greater [harmonization] [alignment] across
national and regional MRLs; and, to enable greater access to alternative
pesticides and pesticides for minor-use crops, particularly in developing
countries. We acknowledge the productive work of the Standards and
Trade Development Facility (STDF) in building knowledge and capacity
for developing countries in the area of pesticide MRLs. We encourage
the SPS Committee to monitor the effectiveness of the voluntary actions
and the STDF work in addressing trade concerns related to food and
agricultural products and to consider further collaborative, consensus
actions as appropriate."
In a separate Job/CTG/11 document submitted to the Council for Trade
in Goods, the three proponents said that agricultural producers report
growing concern over the impact on their exports of missing and misaligned
maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in markets around the
Since 2014, Members of the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary
Measures (SPS) have discussed these concerns and heard from experts
from the Codex Alimentarius (Codex), the World Health Organization,
the Food and Agriculture Organization, regulatory authorities of Members,
producer groups and other industry experts on collaborative work underway
in other fora to reduce the impact of missing and misaligned MRLs
on exports of food and agricultural products, particularly for developing
According to the proponents, despite extensive recent improvements,
additional efforts to address current capacity limitations in Codex
are needed to develop the array of MRLs needed to support global trade.
In addition, the data packages necessary to evaluate safety are expensive
to develop, and in some cases (such as for pesticides that have gone
off patent, or for minor-uses and specialty crops) there is little
economic incentive to develop these data packages.
Additional work is needed to address these issues, including greater
support for the collaborative work on data generation and submission,
as well as support for creative initiatives underway in, inter alia,
the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the East African
In addition, work in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) on common dossiers and standard methodologies for
calculating national MRLs can help to address unnecessary variations
in MRLs across major markets, they said.
The proponents said that they are seeking agreement of the SPS Committee
on these actions at its meeting on 2-3 November 2017, and endorsement
of a Ministerial Decision for MC-11.
Ministerial recognition of the recommendations would elevate them
from their current technical and regulatory context and provide significant
momentum towards resolution, they maintained.
According to trade officials, the Chair of the SPS Committee, Mr.
Marcial Espinola Ramirez of Paraguay, said that he had heard broad
support for both the recommendations and the proposed ministerial
decision. A few members supported the recommendations but voiced concerns
about a ministerial decision; and one member felt the proposed decision
does not fully address the spectrum of issues related with MRLs, and
thus considered it premature to recommend the proposal to a higher
Senegal, Argentina, Canada, Nigeria, Madagascar, Turkey, Uruguay,
Colombia, Costa Rica, Belize, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ukraine, Peru,
and Liberia expressed support for both the recommendations and the
draft ministerial decision.
According to trade officials, India pointed out that its own proposal
on pesticide MRLs (G/SPS/W/284, 2 April 2015) remains unaddressed.
Therefore, India said, it would be premature to recommend the joint
proposal in its current form to the Council for Trade in Goods (CTG)
[According to India, the main purpose of its paper is to put in context
the persistent problem faced by exporters from developing countries
with application of limits of detection (LoD) of pesticide residues
in importing countries. It has been observed by India that LoD is
being resorted to frequently in respect of substances where international
standards as established by the Codex in fact exist, the Indian paper
[This practice of having the MRL at LoD level in respect of pesticides
not registered/not in use in the importing country, is increasing
among Members and is highly disruptive to international trade, the
paper pointed out. It cited several examples in this regard.
[India had recommended that the systemic issues for imports arising
from use of LoD needs further consideration within the SPS Committee.
It needs to be considered whether certain guidelines can be recommended
before importing countries resort to any default LoD levels, with
a view to minimizing the adverse impact on trade, it said.]
According to trade officials, Russia also said that it is concerned
that the draft decision for MC11 has come at a late stage and members
still have disagreements on the recommendations.
China said that the proposal has scientific and representative basis.
It expressed hope that its suggested changes to the text would be
taken on board. It also informed members that Beijing was still considering
the proposed ministerial decision.
According to trade officials, the United States said that it is "unfortunate"
that the SPS Committee had lost an opportunity for an MC11 decision.
The issue of MRLs disproportionally affect farmers and growers in
developing countries and LDCs, the US maintained.
Therefore, it said, the lost opportunity for a decision on this matter
is disappointing for these, as well as for policymakers in developing
countries who worked so hard to advance trade opportunities.
The US went on to address the concerns voiced by the opponents of
a decision on this issue at MC11, saying that although a first draft
of the ministerial decision was only circulated on 3 October, the
issue has been discussed in the SPS Committee for over a year.
According to the US, the Committee has a mandate to deal with matters
concerning food safety, animal and plant health standards.
According to trade officials, the US signalled that it would no longer
pursue a ministerial decision on this issue by MC11. Kenya and Uganda
however did not indicate their plans, trade officials added.
The Chair of the SPS Committee said that he is open to continuing
the discussions. According to trade officials, he called on members
to continue to discuss with their capitals and with each other.
Apart from this issue, the SPS Committee also discussed several specific
trade concerns that have been raised by members including on the EU's
residue requirements on the use of three pesticides; the EU's maximum
level for cadmium in foodstuffs; the EU's proposed criteria to identify
endocrine disruptors; on India's fumigation requirements; and the
EU's salmonella limits in poultry meat.
According to trade officials, under an agenda item on monitoring of
international standards, Argentina and the US voiced concerns over
the ongoing delays in the EU over the renewal of the authorization
for glyphosate, a herbicide widely used in weed control.
This concern was also echoed by Canada and New Zealand.
[Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup
that is to be used along with its genetically modified crop seeds;
and some recent studies have suggested a cancer risk linked to the
use of Roundup. SUNS]
Last month, EU member states had failed to agree on whether to renew
the license for glyphosate for a further 10 years.
The US maintained that members' actions to restrict the use of glyphosate
appear to lack scientific justification.
It said the scientific body setting international standards - the
joint FAO/WHO meeting on pesticide residues (JMPR) - concluded that
glyphosate does not pose a risk to consumers or pose public health
According to trade officials, the EU said there had been intensive
internal discussions on the possible renewal of the glyphosate license.
The EU said it is committed to finding a solution that ensures a high
level of protection for human health and the environment and that
is based on sound science.