Mr. Chairman, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Dr. Nakajima, Director-General of the World Health Organization, has asked me to convey to you his regrets that the is not able to be present at the opening of this memorable Session of your Commission. He wishes me to deliver these opening remarks on his behalf.
I welcome you most cordially to the 20th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. This 20th Session represents 30 years of successful international, intersectoral and interagency collaboration in the field of food standardization. Our twin goals have been consumer protection and the facilitation of food trade - leading to achievements of which we can all be justifiably proud.
In November 1961 the FAO Conference adopted a resolution establishing a Codex Alimentarius Commission. Conscious of the importance of the health aspects of food standards work, it requested the Director-General of FAO to draw to the attention of the Director-General of WHO a proposal for the creation of a joint FAO/WHO food standards programme. Less than three months later, in January 1962, the WHO Executive Board noted with approval a proposal to convene a joint FAO/WHO committee of government experts. This committee was to review the proposed programme of FAO and WHO relating to food standards and draw up recommendations for future activities in this field.
The Committee of Government Experts was convened in Geneva in October 1962 as the “Joint FAO/WHO Conference on Food Standards”. Representatives of 44 Members of FAO and/or WHO attended this Conference, together with observers from 24 international organizations. Half of the countries represented, some 20, were developing countries.
The Conference endorsed the proposal to create a joint FAO/WHO programme on food standards, whose principal organ would be the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It suggested, and the Sixteenth World Health Assembly later agreed, that the first session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission should be called in June 1963. The session opened at FAO Headquarters in Rome on 25 June 1963, 30 years ago almost to the day.
The early sessions of the Commission devoted their attention mainly to elaborating and adopting its rules of Procedure, to agreeing on how to finance the work of the Commission, and to deciding on working modalities and priorities. In line with national approaches to food standardization prevailing at the time, the Commission adopted - by and large - a commodity-specific approach; that is to say, committees were set up and charged with the development of internationally agreed standards for the individual foodstuffs that played an important role in the international food trade. However, several horizontal or general committees, such as on food additives, food hygiene, food labelling, methods of analysis and sampling, and pesticide residues, started their work between 1964 and 1966.
At this 20th Session of the Commission you have the privilege of looking at the impressive results of the work accomplished during the past 30 years. Today - with its 144 Member States-the Commission has a truly global dimension, with more than just the satisfactory participation of developing countries. Since its last session, in Rome in 1991, another six countries have joined the Commission. I should like to welcome these new members by name: they are Belize, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Lithuania, Mongolia and Slovenia. With its large membership, the Commission represents some 95% of the world's population.
The standards, codes of practice and maximum limits for pesticide residues, veterinary drugs and other contaminants, as well as other advisory texts, constitute such an impressive wealth of knowledge, over which international consensus has been reached, that all concerned - the members of the Commission and its two sponsoring Organizations, FAO and WHO - have good reasons to be proud. It is not surprising that the governing bodies of FAO and WHO, in reviewing the work and achievements of the Commission, have been more than just satisfied - they have been ready to go on to further achievements.
For example, in 1987 the Fortieth World Health Assembly called upon WHO Member States to make all appropriate efforts to adopt Codex standards, and to fully utilize the recommendations of the Commission for the promotion of food safety and the international food trade. More recently, in December 1992, the International Conference on Nutrition recognized the work of the Commission and suggested that national food regulations should take the Codex recommendations fully into account.
However, a great deal remains to be done, mainly at the national level, to put the wealth of Codex recommendations into practice, and in particular into public health practice. In this context, I would like to refer to the GATT negotiations being carried out within the framework of the “Uruguay Round”. The Codex Alimentarius has long served as a reference for GATT with respect to technical barriers to trade. However, the proposed Final Act of the Uruguay Round, comprising, among its almost 30 agreements, two that will have a direct impact on health issues, will have implications for the Codex.
Although the acceptance and application of Codex standards will continue to be voluntary, the application - by national authorities - of requirements that are stricter than Codex recommandations will require to be justified as being really necessary for the protection of health. Consequently, the Final Act of the Uruguay Round, particularly its Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, will change the status of Codex recommendations, especially those related to food safety. Therefore, we must be mindful of our responsibilities and ensure that Codex food-safety-related recommendations are up-to-date and irreproachable.
Knowing the role of such recommendations in international trade, it may become more difficult to formulate new Codex standards, and which their formulation may be subject to greater political pressure. The Commission and its subsidiary bodies must, therefore, remain a forum for open dialogue among government representatives presenting a balanced view of their food industry and consumers. Consequently, it will be important for all Members of the Commission, particularly their health sectors, to participate even more actively in its work and that of its subsidiary bodies.
Remarkable changes and challenges can be expected in the coming 30 years. Judging by past performance, I am certain that - with your support and guidance - the Codex Alimentarius Commission will continue to serve humanity in fulfilling one of its essential requirements -adequate, nutritious and safe food.
Mr. Chairman, you have been associated with the work of the Commission and its various subsidiary bodies for many years. You have already chaired - very successfully - two sessions of the Executive Committee. However, this is the first actual session of the Commission of which you will be in the Chair. I wish you well in this demanding task. And I wish all of you success in your deliberations and an enjoyable visit to Geneva.
STATEMENT OF THE
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
on the occasion of the
TWENTIETH SESSION OF THE CODEX ALIMENTARIUS COMMISSION
Geneva, 28 June 1993
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am pleased to convey to you the greetings of the Director-General of FAO, Mr. Edouard Saouma, on the occasion of this, the Twentieth Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and also on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture convened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Hot Springs, Virginia, in May and June 1943. This was the founding Conference of the first of the United Nations' Specialized Agencies: FAO.
The Hot Springs Conference clearly recognized the growing importance of international food trade and its role in overall national development. The Conference stressed the need for harmonized food regulations and food standards to promote such trade and protect consumers. On the basis of the recommendations of the Hot Springs Conference, FAO established a series of activities, often jointly with WHO, on nutrition, pesticide residues and food additives in the 1940s and 1950s. The Codex Alimentarius Commission, founded in 1962 at the first FAO/WHO Food Standards Conference held here in Geneva took this work further as the means to further implement the recommendations of FAO's far-sighted founders.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission is one of the best known examples of effective inter-agency cooperation in the United Nations system. After more than 30 years, we can still pay tribute to the wisdom of those early delegations who established the goals, principles and procedures of a programme with two highly compatible goals; protecting the health of consumers while at the same time facilitating international trade in foods. It is appreciated by all nations that they must have adequate safety and quality control mechanisms to assure continued and problemfree operation of their multi-billion dollar domestic and international trade in raw and processed agricultural commodities. Codex standards provide the basis for such safety and quality control mechanisms for all of its 144 participating Member countries.
While the Codex Alimentarius Commission was founded over thirty years ago, the work of the Commission is kept under constant review to assure that Programme outputs are relevant to the needs of the present and foresseable future. A little over two years ago, in March 1991, at FAO's initiative, the FAO/WHO/GATT Conference on Food Standards, Chemicals in Foods and Food Trade, set out a new agenda for the Codex Commission; and agenda which would enable the Commission to fulfill its strengthened role within the framework of the decisions which form part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations. The 1991 Conference challenged the Codex Commission to respond to this new trading environment in a way which would improve the transparency of the Commission's procedures; strengthen the role of consumers in decision making processes at the national and international levels; and improve the Commission's efficiency. I am pleased to note that almost all of the Conference's recommendations have been or will have been taken up by the Commission by the end of this current session.
Codex work has also been discussed in detail in the GATT Uruguay Round and has been given special recognition in the proposed final GATT texts. The Codex world-wide approach to standardization is consistent with the two texts which form part of the draft GATT Final Act of the Uruguay Round, namely the revised Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and the Decision by the Contracting parties on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. Codex is mentioned in these texts as being the basis of a long term programme of harmonization of national sanitary, or food quality and safety requirements and regulations. The reason for GATT recognition of Codex standards is that they are prepared and accepted by the 144 FAO/WHO member governments which are members of the as Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Mr. Chairman, it is clear that the ever growing importance of Codex work to member countries requires increasing attention by all to the formulation and implementation of Codex work at the country level. To enhance effective Codex participation and implementation many member countries have formed national Codex coordinating mechanisms involving a wide range of government agencies, academia, consumers and industry to assure a broad based consensus at the national level prior to the attendance and participation of government delegations in Codex meetings. In addition to government delegations, the Codex system invites a broad range of consumer, scientific and industry based international non-governmental organizations as rather active observers to Codex meetings. Of course, government delegations may also include consumer industry or other national non-governmental representatives as advisors to their national delegations.
It is clear that reaching final Codex agreements requires the inputs of many groups. In the past food industry groups have been more active in Codex work, either through national level input, or by participation directly as recognized international non-governmental organizations in the work of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies since they clearly recognized the importance of Codex work. I am pleased to say that the importance of Codex work has now become more recognized by consumer and environmental protection groups as well. The International Organization of Consumers' Unions is a regular participant in Codex meetings and Greenpeace has recently participated in Codex meetings on pesticide residues. FAO looks forward to more consumer and environmentalist participation in Codex work. We recognize that such participation is a clear demonstration of the increased awareness by all of the importance of Codex work, justifying the technical and financial inputs which this participation requires. Nevertheless, the burden of Codex decision-making lies exclusively with the Member Governments that, together, comprise the Commission. Codex standards must continue to be based on independent and sound scientific advice developed by FAO and WHO experts such as those in the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) and the Joint Experts Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, but it is the governments which must take the decision to adopt, or not, a Codex Standard. In doing this, they must take into account their own national priorities, including the valid interests of their consumers and industry, and their responsibilities for economic and national development and environmental and consumer protection.
Mr. Chairman: a few words about the Codex financial situation and FAO priority to this Programme. As you all know, the UN specialized agencies have had some budgetary problems over the past several years, with late payment by many member countries and reductions in overall budgets. Despite these problems FAO priority and commitment to Codex has remained high, and technical and funding support have been continued to assure full Codex Programme implementation. FAO member countries are currently carrying out discussions towards setting the 1994–95 Programme and Budget and once again FAO is threatened with further budget cuts. As you know, FAO has been the major contributor to the budget of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme since the Programme's budget was incorporated into the Regular Programmes of FAO and WHO in 1974. FAO's contribution has consistently been about 83% of the total Codex costs. At the same time FAO member countries have expressed very strong support of the Codex Programme and we sincerely hope that 1994/95 overall budget cuts will not impede full Codex funding. However, it is clear that continued reductions in overall budgets can eventually harm all programmes. We will of course keep you and the Codex Executive Committee advised of further developments. It would also be appropriate at this time to express our appreciation for another substantial contribution to the Codex budget, namely the direct contribution provided by the host countries of the standing Codex Committees in providing meeting facilities and interpretation, and translation and distribution of working documents. Host countries also provide technical and administrative support to Codex committees. Additionally, all Member Governments further demonstrate their support by bearing the costs of sending delegations to Codex sessions.
Mr. Chairman; FAO strongly believes that food trade must be based on sustainable agricultural and production systems which meet consumer needs and protect the environment at the same time. FAO is the lead UN agency for implementing the Biodiversity Treaty coming out of the 1992 Rio UNCED Conference and is assessing the potential environmental impact of the liberalization of trade in agricultural products. FAO remains committed to sustainable agricultural and rural development, the appropriate use of agrochemicals and veterinary pharmaceuticals, and the development and application of techniques such as integrated pest management and improved quality control systems which both protect the environment and improve food production and supplies, reduce food losses and assure safer, better quality and lower cost foods.
These goals have been reinforced by the Declaration and Plan of Action on Nutrition adopted by the International Conference on Nutrition held in Rome in December, 1992. The International Conference on Nutrition was a landmark event in many ways including its size and the high level of the government participation. For the first time, the full range of nutrition-related problems was discussed as a whole, from poverty alleviation to the scientific evaluation of the effects of under and over nutrition, or exposure to toxicants or lack of micro-nutrients. Food quality and safety were recognized by the delegations from 159 countries and the European Economic Community, including 137 Ministers of Agriculture and Health who were present, as elements essential to nutrition and to national development. Codex Standards and Codes were once again identified as the international reference point for quality and safety.
Mr. Chairman; you have a long and difficult agenda ahead of you. I wish you all the best in handling the policy and technical issues which will be raised during the session. On behalf of the Director-General, I congratulate the Commission on its achievements to date, and I look forward to receiving another positive report on the outcome of this 20th Commission session.
REPLY BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE CODEX ALIMENTARIUS COMMISSION TO
THE OPENING STATEMENTS MADE BY
THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF WHO AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE
FOOD POLICY AND NUTRITION DIVISION OF FAO
on the occasion of the
TWENTIETH SESSION OF THE CODEX ALIMENTARIUS COMMISSION
Geneva, 28 June - 7 July 1993
Mr. Assistant Director-General;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, thank you for your kind words of encouragement. It is indeed a pleasure and honour to be here in Geneva as Chairman of this, the 20th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
It gives me great satisfaction to note the history and interest of developing countries in the activities of the Commission, as evidenced in part by the participation of the many developing country delegations present with us today. As many of you are already aware, I cannot claim to be the first Chairman of the Codex Alimentarius Commission from a developing country, as Dr. Eduardo Mendez of Mexico holds that distinction. However, I am the first Chairman of the Commission appointed from the Codex region of Asia, and am pleased to know that I will always hold this distinction.
After decades of disruptive superpower rivalry, the end of the cold war has been greeted with jubilation. The world community has been afforded the best chance to work together for an equitable and just world order. Our world today is changing at a very fast pace due to tremendous technology advances, especially in the information sector. The phenomena of globalization in world economics has become a fact of life. We cannot afford to ignore or avoid this situation. At this opportune time, I would like to underscore what I observe as the reality of this phenomena. That reality is the need of interdependence between industrialized and developing countries. With the swift pace of globalization, this interdependence is also increasing, it ignores boundaries.
There are several reasons why this interdependence is so important today. For industrialized countries, in order to sustain their role in the world, they must keep their position closer to the source of raw materials as well as to the market of developing countries. In the meantime, the developing countries with their comparative advantages in natural resources and abundant supply of labour, must also maintain a close relationship with industrialized countries for their capital, technology and expertise. This interdependence will continue to take place as the consequence of new product and new market development.
Today, the world, and in particular the developing countries, is still vulnerable to the changes in the global, political and economic reforms. In the economic field, various forms of non-tariff barriers have been erected blocking free trade and includes the introduction of new elements such as requirements on local content and discriminatory taxes. These have seriously impeded world trade.
In addition to the responsibilities of the Commission so adequately outlined by our previous speakers, I should like to point out that Codex is also relied upon for the coordination of all food standards work undertaken by other governmental and non-governmental organizations. In this regard, while Codex has in the past made some provisions for regional standards, in more recent years it has arrived at a policy to discourage, whenever possible, the development of standards by regional bodies which would establish preferential treatment for trading partners at the regional level. The Commission has expressed concern on many occasions about the negative impact on trade of regional standards, and has stated that such standards should not be developed for commodities moving in international trade as they tend to create confusion, duplication of work and often result in multiple “international” standards for foods. Although the Codex Alimentarius Commission is recognized as the sole United Nations body entrusted with responsibility for elaborating international standards for foods, it has also taken regional initiatives arising from other bodies into account. In the area of processed foods, Codex has already been successful in coordinating regional initiatives into its programme of work.
The Codex worldwide approach to standardization is covered under the newly revised draft GATT Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, whereby the elaboration of quality provisions in Codex standards are and will continue to be the responsibility of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. This new draft GATT Agreement stresses that quality standards and technical regulations should be based on international standards. The definition of an International Standards Body states that membership must be open to the relevant bodies of at least all the parties to the GATT Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. As you have already been informed, the international Codex approach is also consistent in so far as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and barriers are concerned under the draft GATT Uruguay Round Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.
In December 1992, I had the honour to participate in the FAO/WHO International Conference on Nutrition as Chairman of the Drafting Committee to this historic assembly. As many of you are aware, the Conference unanimously adopted the World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition at this meeting. The Plan of Action for Nutrition is of particular interest to Codex as it emphasizes strategies for protecting consumers through improved food quality and safety. These strategies include the adoption and strengthening of measures and infrastructures to cover food quality and safety; the establishment of measures to protect consumers from unsafe, low quality, adulterated, misbranded or contaminated foods; the establishment of effective working relationships with consumer and producer organizations; the support of international efforts to extend and enhance food standards programmes; the development of human resources; the implementation of existing international agreements; the development of surveillance and monitoring programmes for food-borne diseases and contaminants; and, the promotion of the development of ecologically sound agricultural practices and food quality and safety research.
Once again, it is evident that the Codex Alimentarius Commission has been and will continue to be called upon to serve as the international body with the responsibility of establishing international food standards.
In conclusion, I should like to express my personal gratitude to the sponsoring organizations of FAO and WHO for their continuous and strong support given to the Codex Programme despite the difficulties both organizations are going through, and wish to reemphasize the importance of continuing such support in the future. I look forward to the challenge of leading this meeting through a long and complicated agenda over the next ten days and trust that we can successfully report on its positive outcome to your satisfaction. I am sure that the help and guidance which will be provided by the distinguished delegates will make my work much easier and much more enjoyable.
Again, thank you both for your kind words and support. I look forward to working with you all over the next several days.