STC Number - 169

EC proposed regulation on maximum residue levels of pesticides

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Argentina; China
Supported by: Bolivia, Plurinational State of; Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Cuba; Honduras; Mexico; Paraguay; Philippines; Uruguay
First date raised: June 2003 G/SPS/R/30, paras. 75-77
Dates subsequently raised: October 2004 (G/SPS/R/35, paras. 76-79)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/N/EEC/196; G/SPS/N/EEC/196/Add.1
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Risk assessment
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2003, China indicated that it was highly concerned with the approach taken by the European Communities on maximum residue levels in plant and animal products and had submitted comments on the notification. China believed that the new rules were not in compliance with the SPS Agreement and requested information on the risk assessment undertaken by the EC. Brazil noted that it had previously raised similar concerns and requested a three year postponement of the measure. Chile expressed support for the position taken by China and Brazil and also requested information on the risk analysis and the scientific basis for the maximum residue levels. Brazil queried whether, for those pesticides where there was no scientific evidence, a precautionary approach would be used.

The European Communities replied that the draft rule replaced and simplified four existing directives. The new rule was scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2005 and would lead to a harmonization of maximum residue levels in the European Communities. The transitional process would be very long and additional comments could still be made. The objective was to examine 325 substances in order to update the available information and to set maximum residue limits since zero level was difficult to achieve. The new rule would not lead to a withdrawal of given authorizations except for use within the European Communities. Imports from third countries would not be automatically banned, but could be accepted on the basis of maximum residue limits when it could be shown that these limits were sufficient to protect health. Members and the Codex Alimentarius were invited to submit comments on which levels of residues might be considered as acceptable.

In October 2004, Argentina raised concerns over EC notification G/SPS/N/EEC/196/Add 1. The proposed rule would seriously affect developing countries' agri-food exports. Of particular concern was the EC default level of zero for maximum residue limits set for products that had not being authorized or when data was unavailable to demonstrate the safety of the residues. This requirement was implemented for economic reasons rather than for food safety considerations. Moreover, many of the maximum residue limits set by Codex had not been accepted by the European Communities, especially those set before 1990. The European Communities should provide scientific justification for deviations from international standards as well as consider the economic impact of the implementation of its proposed regulation on trading partners.

ASEAN, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay echoed the concerns raised by Argentina. Chile and Cuba asked what methodology was used in setting the default detection limit. The Philippines, on behalf of ASEAN countries, supported the statement made by Argentina and asked why the European Communities had not adopted relevant Codex standards. The European Communities should provide a risk assessment if a higher level of protection than that achieved by the relevant Codex standards was adopted. Furthermore, developing countries lacked the technological and analytical capability to comply with the new default approach and this could have adverse economic implications for them.

The European Communities explained that a listing of all available risk assessment documents on approved MRLs had been made, including those MRLs for pesticides approved many years ago. Some of the risk assessments were no longer relevant today and so a reassessment of the pesticides was needed. The industry was requested to supply the relevant scientific and technical data to carry out these risk assessments. However, the industry was no longer interested in marketing some of the older pesticides and were not keen to fund research. Therefore, these pesticides were withdrawn from the list and a residue default level was set for them. The European Communities would, however, allow the use of these pesticides if furnished with relevant risk assessments from interested trading partners. Argentina was requested to provide its questions in writing so that detailed written replies could be communicated to all interested Members.