Re: Codex proposes guidelines for non-approved GMOs (8/10/2007)

Comment from Clare Oxborrow: I've been sent the attached analysis from Phil Bereano (Prof Emiritus at University of Washington, who has been closely involved with the Codex process). Please could you circulate? Phil's points for emphasis are between ** **


(1) Codex is a joint UN agency between FAO and WHO with about 170 member countries. It develops principles and guidelines on food issues - some highly technical, and some a mix of technical and policy elements. **No country is under any obligation whatsoever to adopt any Codex document - they are all voluntary. In addition, countries are free to adopt regulations at variance with Codex positions.**

(2) Why does it matter, then? **Under WTO rules, Codex principles are the international standards to be followed by the WTO Dispute Resolution Body.** Thus, countries have an incentive to follow Codex (so as to avoid complaints of trade restrictions); also developing countries without significant technical and administrative infrastructure, often rely on Codex as a 'ready-made' regulatory system. (This is where the EC screwed up in the GMO case brought by the US/Canada/Argentina-it didn't use the Codex defense and instead tried to use the Protocol, a much weaker theory which failed it.)

(3) The essence of State sovereignty is the ability to makes internal rules and to control what comes in across the borders. The basic notion behind WTO is that countries mutually give up some of this sovereignty in order to stimulate trade and economic development.

(4) The Annex is just that-an Annex to the GMO Plant Guidelines, which themselves are dependent upon the general Codex Principles for Pre-Market Assessments of GMO Foods. These two documents were produced by the Task Force in earlier sessions, and were the subject of several communications from me (and Michael, and Bruno Heinzer of GP, when GP was still doing Codex work). They call for **pre-market safety assessments of GE foods before they are placed on the market** and are fairly elaborate and exacting; thus, the US process clearly does not satisfy these documents.

(5) The US and industry wanted to sneak contaminated products into unsuspecting countries **that had not assessed the GMO causing the contamination.** Two years ago they proposed a draft that would have allowed a minimal assessment of the contamination if the GMO had been approved anywhere under any system, the language implying that the GMO would eventually be approved everywhere (eg, 'countries have asynchronous approvals' - can you believe the bull____ we have to deal with?!). The EU and other Members (with our assistance) shot that down.

Last year they came back with a much reduced proposal but the EU (based on its experience of receiving contaminated shipments without any knowledge about the contaminant) insisted that such an idea would only be considered if it were coupled with a strong information sharing component. We supported that in Japan and at the 3 day Working Group (chaired by the US) which developed a draft this past March, believing that - **since contamination will occur, countries and NGOs are much better off knowing about the situation** than being in the dark.

(6) The Annex as finalized is significantly circumscribed and will offer us important new information:

* **It retains every Member's absolute right to ban contamination;** this guideline will not force any country to abandon its standards.
* It applies **only to GMO contaminants that have been assessed under the Codex Principles in any country;**
* At the WG meeting in DC that drafted the document, I specifically goaded the chair, Eric Flamm of FDA, into admitting that **US approvals would NOT qualify for this Annex** since they did not fulfill the Codex Principles. I also raised that point obliquely in Japan (referring to the 'country which is the largest producer and exporter') and all the delegates know it.
* **The information from that assessment will be put up on a publicly accessible website (the FAO 'Portal')** in summary form, but consistent with the formatting of the Principles; CBI will be respected, etc, but there will be information on contact points for the importing government to get all the info it wants.
* **Information on detection protocols will be included **(industry has refused to give these to even powerful European governments).**
* **The reduced or streamlined procedure is almost identical to all the steps in the full safety assessment in the Principles.**
* Codex clearly distinguishes 3 elements of risk analysis (it is somewhat artificial)-risk assessment, risk management, risk communication. All these documents deal only with risk assessment; **the determination of what is a 'low-level' so as to bring this Annex into play was decided to be a risk management issue and therefore not discussed.** In other words, each country is free to decide and a zero-tolerance policy is still OK (ie, 'low level' being defined as anything detectable).

-----Original Message-----
Subject: GMW: Codex proposes guidelines for non-approved GMOs

GM WATCH daily list

1.Codex proposes guidelines for non-approved GMOs
2.Codex Task Force Report and Comments

EXTRACT: 'It is outrageous that instead of tightening up controls to prevent this contamination happening in the first place, the US is attempting to legalise such contamination. Governments must uphold European legislation which has a zero tolerance approach to unauthorised GMOs to ensure that consumers and the environment are protected.' (ITEM 1)

'From our perspective, regardless of whether this Codex guideline is approved or not, we will not eat GM foods, and [we - the Japanese Consumer Union - will] make every attempt to stop genetic modification of animals for food production.' (ITEM 2)
1.Codex proposes guidelines for non-approved GMOs
FoodNavigator, 5 October 2007

05/10/2007 - The Codex Alimentarius Commission is to create guidelines for assessing the risk of imported food made with non-approved genetically modified plant material, which would help relax trade barriers.

The EU currently applies a zero-tolerance policy for non-approved genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and feed imports. According to the Commission report, most of these GMOs have suffered delays in the approval system but have received regulatory approval in countries outside the EU or have a positive safety assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Because of the differences in the GMO authorisation regimes between the EU and exporting countries, conflicting authorisations of GMOs have occurred. Codex said these could become more frequent and affect a greater range of crops in the future.

Codex establishes food standards, ensures fair trade practices in the food trade and promotes the coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international organisations on behalf of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation.

It has decided to advance a proposal that addresses the risk assessment of low-level presence of biotech plant materials, found in food or feed, which have been authorised in one or more countries but not yet in the importing country. This decision followed negotiations by members of the Codex ad hoc Task Force last week in Chilba, Japan.

Codex's proposal will be submitted to the Codex Commission next July for approval, and will subsequently be incorporated in the Codex Plant Guidelines as an annex including information-sharing mechanisms.

This system would not substitute the full food safety assessments under the Codex Guidelines

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