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FAO Press Release 02/31

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For further information contact Erwin Northoff, Media Relations Officer, tel: 0039 06 5705 3105


Rome, 18 March 2002 - Around 90 countries have agreed on new guidelines on wood packaging material that may contain dangerous wood-eating insects, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

The new guidelines recognise the possibility of pests being introduced and spread by packaging material made of unprocessed raw wood. These pests can pose a serious threat to living trees, FAO said.

The guidelines, adopted by the Interim Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (ICPM) of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) seek to harmonise different national regulations on wood packaging material.

In recent years, for example, the US has imposed quarantine measures aimed at preventing the introduction of Asian long-horned beetles in wood packaging material from China; China has introduced its own treatment and documentation requirements for wood packing from the US that might harbour the pinewood nematode; and the European Union has adopted regulations to control nematodes in coniferous packaging from both the US and China.

At issue is not only the protection of forests from imported pests, but the free flow of world trade, because wood packaging material, in the form of pallets, crates, boxes or dunnage, is used in up to 70 percent of all cargoes shipped between nations, FAO said.

To guarantee that the packaging material is pest-free, exporters would need to certify with a globally recognised symbol, that the material has been heated or fumigated.

"The new guidelines will significantly help to reduce the risk of pest spread", said Robert Griffin, coordinator of the IPPC Secretariat based at FAO. "It will be both an immediate benefit to traders and the shipping industry and a means of enhancing protection of the world's forests".

Unjustified phytosanitary measures can act as trade barriers, Griffin warned. "These protective measures need to be harmonised globally through the use of international standards to ensure safe trade. Protection needs to be based on legitimate concerns, they should not create trade barriers."

Among the 13 international standards adopted since 1993 under the IPPC are guidelines for pest risk analysis, requirements for the establishment of pest free areas, and a code of conduct for the import and release of biological control agents. "Standards, guidelines and recommendations developed under the IPPC are recognised by the World Trade Organization as the most appropriate means for harmonisation," Griffin said.

For developing countries it is increasingly difficult to meet international standards of trading partners, because they lack the expertise and infrastructure. For this reason, FAO and developed countries are providing technical assistance and training to modernise phytosanitary measures in developing countries so that they can meet international obligations.

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