Global concern over new EU novel food regs

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Eu

Proposed revision of the EU regulation on novel foods has aroused
concern among several developing countries, according to the WTO.

The issue emerged during a week of informal and formal meetings at the organisation's Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Committee.Colombia, Ecuador and Peru said that while the current regulation is designed primarily to deal with new technologies, such as genetic modification, it also affects their ability to export "small exotic traditional products"​ based on their rich biodiversity.

They were concerned therefore that the proposed modifications to the regulation would not resolve these problems. Some of these products have been available in their countries for centuries and should not be lumped together with new technologies such as genetic modification, they said.

They were supported by Paraguay, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay, among Latin American countries, and also Benin (which asked when a product is 'new'), and India.

The proposed regulation is designed to protect consumers but it can still be amended, the EU said. In addition, it said that the draft regulation is not targeted at biodiversity products but at new technologies and new products.

However, the category of 'biodiversity products' is broad and in the past has included some that have proved harmful. Therefore it is also in the exporters' interests for their products to be cleared as safe, the EU said.

Another issue that emerged during the talks concerned calls to apply science or international standards to diseases such as mad cow disease (BSE) and avian influenza. The EU reported that it has lifted the export ban on UK beef and expects trade to resume normally between its members states.

New Zealand repeated its concerns about the length of time Australia is taking to accept its apples and continued to object to Australia treating fireblight as a risk in mature apples. The comments came on the eve of Canberra's 30 March deadline for comments and Australia outlined the remaining procedure for its risk assessment.

Chile, on the other hand, reported that it has almost completely resolved a similar problem with Australia over table grapes and thanked Australia for its cooperation.

Discussions also covered how to improve coordination on SPS matters at national levels, including how to ensure involvement of all relevant stakeholders and coherence with national positions at the WTO, Codex, OIE and IPPC.

A Secretariat background paper G/SPS/GEN/640 will be updated before the June SPS meeting based on inputs from members.

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