US complaints WTO over non GMO
- July 2, 2022
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
US complaints WTO over non GMO
Subject : Economy
Section: External Sector
Why in the news?
The US has complained at the WTO that, despite several requests from trade partners, India has provided “neither scientific justification nor a risk assessment’’ supporting its mandatory requirement for non-GMO (genetically modified origin) and GM-free status certificates for certain agriculture imports.
- The tolerance limit, specified by FSSAI, for the accidental presence of GM is 1 percent of the imported food crop consignments.
- American companies find it difficult to adhere to the certification requirement as the US has no restrictions on GM food.
- The US had requested India to provide the scientific justification for establishing the tolerance at this level and provide relevant risk assessments or international standards on which this tolerance is based.
- The US further highlighted that it leads negative impacts on trade and inefficient biosafety regulation in India
WTO members follow different approaches to managing GMOs in food and animal feed, including when informing consumers through labeling and this sometimes creates trade challenges.
WTO members use the Agreement on the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures to discuss each other’s product regulations and standards, which are at times problematic for producers and traders.
Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
- It entered into force with the establishment of the World Trade Organization on 1 January 1995.
- It sets out the basic rules on food safety and animal and plant health standards that governments are required to follow.
- Together with the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, it seeks to identify how to meet the need to apply standards while avoiding disguised protectionism.
- The basic aim of the SPS Agreement is to maintain the sovereign right of any government to provide the level of health protection it deems appropriate, but to ensure that these sovereign rights are not misused for protectionist purposes and do not result in unnecessary barriers to international trade.
- The SPS Agreement allows WTO members to set their own standards on food safety and animal and plant health. But these standards must be based on science, applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, and not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail.
- Members are encouraged to use international standards, guidelines and recommendations but may adopt higher levels of protection if there is scientific justification for it, or if they are based on appropriate assessment of risks.
- The SPS Agreement allows countries to use different methods of control, inspection and approval procedures to verify compliance with adopted standards. Transparency regarding governments’ SPS regulations is a key provision to avoid unnecessary barriers to trade.
- According to Article 7 of the SPS Agreement, members shall notify changes in their sanitary or phytosanitary measures and provide information on their sanitary or phytosanitary measures in accordance with the provisions of Annex B. The Members’ transparency toolkit contains all the relevant information for members to fulfill their transparency obligations regarding SPS measures.
Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures-The SPS Committee is the forum where WTO members discuss issues related to the implementation of the SPS Agreement and potential trade concerns. All decisions are reached by consensus. The Agreement also mandates the SPS Committee to develop a procedure to monitor the process of international harmonization and to coordinate with the relevant organizations.
- Which are the relevant standard-setting organizations for the SPS Agreement?
- FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex): for food safety
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE): for animal health and zoonoses
- FAO International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC): for plant protection.
Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures v/s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade
The SPS Agreement covers all measures whose purpose is to protect:
- human or animal health from food-borne risks;
- human health from animal- or plant-carried diseases;
- animals and plants from pests or diseases;
- whether or not these are technical requirements.
The TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreement covers all technical regulations, voluntary standards and the procedures to ensure that these are met, except when these are sanitary or phytosanitary measures as defined by the SPS Agreement.
SPS Agreement the only justification for not using such standards for food safety and animal/plant health protection are scientific arguments resulting from an assessment of the potential health risks. In contrast, under the TBT Agreement governments may decide that international standards are not appropriate for other reasons, including fundamental technological problems or geographical factors.
TBT measures could cover any subject, from car safety to energy-saving devices, to the shape of food cartons.
- TBT measures could include pharmaceutical restrictions, or the labelling of cigarettes.
- Most measures related to human disease control are under the TBT Agreement, except for the diseases which are carried by plants or animals .
- In terms of food, labelling requirements, nutrition claims and concerns, quality and packaging regulations are generally not considered to be sanitary or phytosanitary measures and hence are normally subject to the TBT Agreement.
- Regulations which address microbiological contamination of food, or set allowable levels of pesticide or veterinary drug residues, or identify permitted food additives, fall under the SPS Agreement.
- Some packaging and labelling requirements, if directly related to the safety of the food, are also subject to the SPS Agreement.
Thus, the sanitary and phytosanitary measures may be imposed only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant health, on the basis of scientific information. Governments may, however, introduce TBT regulations when necessary to meet a number of objectives, such as national security or the prevention of deceptive practices.