United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): International Standards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
United Nations Environment Programme: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR)
Office International des Epizoöties (OIE)
Office International du Vin et de la Vigne (OIV)
Guidelines for Cooperation with other International Intergovernmental Organizations
19. At its 47th Session, the Executive Committee noted the proposal being discussed by the OECD Scheme "that one single international grade standards setting body" be established in relation to commercial quality standards for fresh fruits and vegetables and requested to be kept informed of developments in this area. An informal meeting of the Codex, OECD and UNECE Secretariats had been held in Paris on 20 April 2001 and had outlined suggestions to minimize duplication of work between the three organizations. The conclusions of this meeting were reported in the Working paper before the Commission.
20. The representative of the UNECE Secretariat stressed the need to avoid any duplication of work between the UN/ECE Specialized Section on Standardization of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables and the Codex Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. He supported the proposal to circulate UN/ECE standards for comments at Step 3 of the Codex procedure when the Committee decided to elaborate a Codex Standard for which there was already an UN/ECE Standard.
21. The Delegation of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Community, stated that the Terms of Reference of the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables clearly established measures to avoid overlapping or duplication of work between the two bodies concerned, but that recent developments in the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables indicated that the Committee had not been making proper use of these measures. The Delegation called for a wider debate on these issues, with a view to progressing towards a satisfactory and consensual solution on the basis of the recommendation of the 48th session of the Executive Committee to take account of the experience and expertise of specialized bodies working in this field and ensure that the countries most concerned in individual standards were fully involved in their preparation. This view was supported by several other delegations who also referred to the participation of countries beyond the region of Europe in the work of the UN/ECE and stressed the need to rationalize resources by using the experience and expertise of the UN/ECE.
22. The Delegation of Malaysia, supported by many delegations, expressed its concern about the conclusions of the informal meeting especially in regard to the direct circulation of UN/ECE standards at Step 3 and the amendment of footnote 17 to the Terms of Reference of the Committee. It was noted that UN/ECE standards could be used as a reference for Codex standards when like products were being considered and suggested that fresh produce standards developed by other recognized organizations could be also used as a starting point. However, the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables remained the lead body in elaborating world-wide grade standards for fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of these Delegations also expressed their disagreement with the introduction of trial periods for recommendations in the work of the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables or other Codex committees stating that the Codex procedure allowed for the standards to be exhaustively discussed and it adequately provided for their revisions when necessary. It was also stated that this practice might lead to confusion in international trade.
23. The Commission noted that there was no consensus on the conclusions of the informal meeting and therefore, no change would be made to the Terms of Reference of the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. It also agreed that this issue need not be included on the agenda of the next session of the Committee since it had been already discussed widely at different sessions of the Commission (including the present Session) and at the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. The Commission endorsed the view of the Executive Committee concerning the status of the Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables as the international body responsible for drafting grade standards for these products. It also emphasized the need to draw upon and develop the experience and expertise of specialized bodies working in this field and ensure that the countries most concerned in individual standards were fully involved in their preparation. It also noted that in the final analysis the responsibility for the development and adoption of standards for these products rested with the Commission itself.
24. The Executive Committee at its 47th Session had requested the Secretariat to keep it informed about developments relating to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, adopted in Montreal in January 2000. A number of delegations noted that clear distinction should be made between the mandate of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety dealt with the potential risk posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology to the environment and not with food safety which is the mandate of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Other delegations stated that the Cartagena Protocol covered issues affecting both human health and environment.
25. Although the Commission welcomed the linkages with the Secretariat of the CBD, it did not endorse the Executive Committee's recommendation that coherence between Codex and texts arising from the Cartagena Protocol dealing with such matters as traceability, labelling and identification of Living Modified Organisms used as food should be ensured.
26. The Commission noted the decision of the 47th session of the Executive Committee to entrust the preparation of a first draft on the revision of the Code of Practice for the Processing and Handling of Quick Frozen Foods to the IIR in an attempt to explore ways of collaboration with other recognized intergovernmental organizations engaged in standardization in order to improve and accelerate the elaboration or revision of Codex texts. The Delegation of Thailand and a number of other delegations questioned the lack of inclusiveness in the revision of the text since the membership of the IIR was more limited than that of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and questioned the procedures used to revise the Code. The Commission also noted the concern of Thailand regarding the status of the revision of the Code.
27. At the invitation of the Chairperson of the Commission, the Director-General of the OIE (Dr. Bernard Vallat) addressed the Commission. Dr. Vallat informed the Commission that 158 countries were currently members of the OIE. In the efforts of improving animal health, prevention of zoönotic diseases and overall consumer protection, areas of common interests between the OIE and the Codex Alimentarius had been identified. He stated that in achieving the objectives of the WTO/SPS Agreement, there was a need to increase coordination and integration between Codex and the OIE to secure the best available scientific and technical advice and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort.
28. Dr Vallat recommended that a comparison of existing OIE/Codex standards on the same subjects should be conducted to review and harmonize future and existing standards, including consistency of terminology and principles, improving transparency, and enhancing the exchange of information on subjects of mutual interest. He also noted that the existing agreements with the FAO and the WHO predated the establishment of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and that it would be appropriate to consider new arrangements reflecting current needs for cooperation and collaboration.
29. The Representative of the OIV informed the Commission that a new international agreement had been signed that would reform and restructure that Organization. One of the objectives of the agreement would be to cooperate with other intergovernmental organizations in their standardization activities.
30. Some Delegations, referring to the agreement between FAO and the OIV of 1948 mentioned by the Representative, stated that it had been impossible to obtain a certified copy of the agreement and questioned the exclusion of provisions concerning food additives in wine and related products from the mandate of the Commission and its Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants. The Commission requested clarification of this issue and confirmed that the establishment of limits and levels of use of food additives in food, including beverages, fell within its own mandate.
31. Reference was made to Article I of the Procedural Manual which provided a general framework for cooperation with other international standardization organizations and to the Step 1 of the Uniform Elaboration Procedure which provided for the allocation of work items to bodies other than subsidiary bodies. The need for clear guidance on when and how to proceed when assigning work to organizations other than subsidiary bodies of the Commission was raised. The Commission agreed that a document should be developed to provide guidance on cooperation with other International Intergovernmental Organizations on the elaboration of Codex Standards and Related Texts. The Commission decided to entrust the elaboration of these guidelines to the Codex Committee on General Principles.