WTO members raise trade concerns on EU pesticide MRLs

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/Jan-Schneckenhaus
Picture: iStock/Jan-Schneckenhaus

Related tags World trade organization European union

World Trade Organization (WTO) members have raised trade issues on pesticides in food at the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS).

Peru voiced concerns over the European Union's maximum residue levels (MRLs) for acrinathrin, matalaxyl and thiabendazole.

Thiabendazole is used to control fungal infection in mangoes and the low residue limits imposed by the EU have caused a decline in Peruvian mango exports.

Peru said the requirement set more stringent limits than is recommended by the Codex Alimentarius and is more trade-restrictive than necessary.

The concern was shared by Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nigeria and the US.

Negative trade impact

The US said the standards have a negative impact on trade of a number of agricultural products and the new standards also affected its sweet potato exports.

Acrinathrin, Metalaxyl and Thiabendazole MRLs in EU Regulation 2017/1164

In citrus fruit, strawberries the MRL for acrinathrin has been lowered from 0.2 to 0.02 mg/kg in pome fruits from 0.1 to 0.02 mg/kg.
For metalaxyl for some pome fruits the MRL was lowered for quinces, meldars, loquats from 1 mg/kg to LOQ level of 0.01 mg/kg. For apples and pears the MRL remained at 1 mg/kg.

The MRL for thiabendazole in citrus fruits has been elevated from 5 to 7 mg/kg as well as for some pome fruit like as for quinces, meldars, loquats from 0.05 to 3 mg/kg.

A lower MRL has been set for mango from 5 mg/kg to 0.01 mg/kg, potatoes from 15 mg/kg to 0.04 mg/kg and chicory from 1 mg/kg to 0.05 mg/kg. The regulation will be in force by 21 January 2018.

The EU replied that the stricter standards were based on studies by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and provided information on alternative plant protection products to replace thiabendozole use on mangoes.

Members were unable to reach a consensus to endorse a decision on pesticide MRLs which was hoped to be put forward to trade ministers at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires in December.

The proposal from Kenya, Uganda and the US said agricultural producers report growing concerns on the impact of missing and misaligned MRLs on their exports.

Missing or differences between MRLs applied in different countries can impede international trade in agricultural products.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration has found that 98% of domestic and 90% of imported foods tested in FY 2015 were compliant with pesticide residue limits.

No pesticide chemical residues​ were found in 49.8% of the domestic and 56.8% of the imported human food samples analysed.

The agency found residue levels above the tolerance or residues for which no tolerance has been established in less than 2% (15 of 835) of domestic samples and less than 10% (444 of 4,737) of import samples.

Pesticides most often found included Imidacloprid, Thiophanate-methyl, Boscalid, Chlorpyrifos, Acetamiprid, Azoxystrobin, Tebuconazole, Cypermethrin and Fludioxonil.

Glyphosate delay

At the WTO meeting, Argentina and the US took issue with delays in the European Union​ to renew the authorization for glyphosate.

The concern was echoed by Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, New Zealand, Peru and Uruguay.

The US said actions to restrict the use of glyphosate appear to lack scientific justification.

It said the scientific body assessing risks that international standards rely on – the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) - concluded that glyphosate does not pose a risk to consumers or public health when used appropriately.

Cadmium in chocolate

Peru also questioned the European Union on its maximum permitted level of cadmium in foodstuffs, particularly in cocoa products.

The country is one of the major cocoa producers and said it was concerned the EU's intended requirements could impede exports and were affecting the international price of the commodity.

This concern was echoed by other Latin American and African cocoa exporters including Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Madagascar, Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Costa Rica said cadmium is naturally present in cocoa due to soil conditions.

The EU will introduce limits on cadmium in cocoa products from January 2019​.

A 100g bar of dark chocolate containing more than 50% cocoa solids must not have more than 0.08mg of cadmium.

The EU said it had already deferred the implementation of the maximum cadmium limits until 2019 due to concerns by its trading partners.

The regulation also set limits on blended products, such as cocoa powders or chocolate products, rather than on cocoa beans, to facilitate compliance.

Meanwhile, training for government officials from WTO members covered SPS issues ranging from national implementation to the identification of SPS-related market access difficulties.

Wai Yee Lin, assistant director at the department of consumer affairs of Myanmar's Ministry of Commerce, said: "This advanced SPS course has enhanced our understanding of SPS measures and has equipped us with the necessary tools to deal with SPS issues in trade in food."

Kenrick Witty, a plant health officer in Belize's Agricultural Health Authority, said the course gave participants the know-how to address agricultural health issues when they return to their countries.

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