FAO plays an important role in setting international pesticide standards which contribute to the reduction of risks associated with the use of pesticides and to the promotion of sustainable agricultural production. FAO pesticide specifications provide an international point of reference for regulatory purposes or in commercial dealings on pesticide quality. Codex Alimentarius Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) are international benchmarks for harmonization under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements of World Trade Origination (WTO) and have been accepted worldwide for ensuring food safety and facilitating international trade.
Developing countries often suffer from substandard pesticide products and frequently encounter market access obstacles resulting from insufficient international pesticide residue standards for their interest crops and weak pesticide monitoring programs. They also face challenges to participate in the establishment and implementation of international pesticide standards.
FAO has a capacity build programme to facilitate developing countries’ participation in the international pesticide standards setting activities. In recent years, FAO has developed two training manuals - on pesticide specifications and on the Evaluation of pesticide residues for establishment of MRLs. These manuals help developing countries have a better understanding on data requirements and evaluations for setting international pesticide standards. A series of training workshops on pesticide residue risk assessment and standard setting were conducted in international and regional level in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
From the work plan for the development of pesticide specifications adopted by the 13th FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Specification (JMPS) held in June 2014, the number proposals from developing countries for the establishment of new pesticide specifications rose by 30% from last year. More than half of the total applications for pesticide specifications and equivalences were submitted by developing countries.
FAO also provides technical support to the three regional Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America on data generation for setting international pesticide residue standards (MRLs).
Most recently, the Latin American regional STDF project held its first steering committee meeting in San Jose. The project is recognized as particularly important to the Latin American region since the number of rejected agricultural exports has increased in recent years due to non-compliance with pesticide standards of import countries and about 80% of the rejections were caused by pesticide related problems. One objective of this project is to open and increase export market access for Latin American horticultural products through establishing
international residue standards for high-value tropical fruits. The project also aims to enhance capacity of Latin American countries in participating in the international standard setting process. Participating in this technical project are institutions from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador, as well as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), FAO and the United States Department of Agriculture, through the Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA/FAS). Through the implementation of the project, the region will establish a sustainable programme to provide minor crop growers with good agriculture practice (GAP) in pesticide use that will help them to ensure that their high-value commodities comply with international residue standards and reach their intended export markets.