Agricultural Trade Fact Sheet
Table of Contents


The IPPC is a multilateral treaty deposited with the Director General of FAO and administered through the Interim Commission on Phytosanitary Measures in cooperation with regional and national plant protection organizations. The purpose of the Convention is "international cooperation in controlling pests of plants and plant products and in preventing their international spread, and especially their introduction into endangered areas" (IPPC Preamble). The IPPC currently has 110 contracting parties. The Secretariat for the IPPC is provided by FAO.

The Convention was adopted by FAO in 1951 and came into force in 1952. It was amended once in 1973 and again in 1997. The recent revision was done to update the Convention and reflect the role of the IPPC in relation to the GATT Uruguay Round Agreements, particularly the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement). The SPS Agreement identifies the IPPC as the organization providing international standards to help ensure that measures implemented to protect plant health from harmful pests (phytosanitary measures) are harmonized and not used as unjustified non-tariff barriers to trade.

Although the IPPC has a strong relationship with the regulation of international trade, the Convention is not limited in this respect. Many forms of international cooperation in plant protection fall within the scope of the Convention. The IPPC applies to the protection of both cultivated and natural flora and includes protection from direct and indirect damage from pests (e.g., weeds). Therefore, the scope of the Convention extends to the protection of the environment where it concerns pest threats to the life and health of plants and plant systems.


The role of the Convention in relation to trade has changed significantly in recent years as reflected in the substantial amendments found in the recently revised text. In addition to describing the fundamental elements of international cooperation and national plant protection responsibilities in a contemporary context, the IPPC also now has a clear focus on the establishment of international standards for phytosanitary measures (ISPMs).

Amendments to the Convention in 1997 have established a Commission on Phytosanitary Measures. The functions of the Commission are to review the state of plant protection in the world, provide direction to the work programme of the IPPC Secretariat, and approve standards. The Secretariat is charged with coordination of the work programme of the IPPC, particularly the elaboration of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs).

IPPC standards fall into three categories; reference standards, concept standards, and specific standards. To date, the IPPC has produced primarily reference and concept standards to establish the foundation for specific standards that follow. Since first initiating its standard setting activities in 1992, the IPPC has completed 10 standards.

These standards usually have their origin in national or regional initiatives, or are drafted by expert groups organized by the Secretariat. Draft standards are reviewed by experts and also sent to member governments for consultation before being submitted to the Commission for adoption.

The topics and priorities for standards are determined by the Commission in consultation with regional plant protection organizations. The number and frequency of standards under development has a direct relationship to the resources available to the Secretariat and the technical complexity of the issues being addressed.

The Convention is a legally binding agreement, but standards developed and adopted by the IPPC are not legally binding. However, measures that are based on international standards do not require supporting justification under the SPS Agreement of the World trade Organization (WTO). Measures that deviate from international standards, or measures that exist in the absence of international standards must be based on scientific principles and evidence. Emergency (or provisional) measures may be taken without such analyses, but must be reviewed for their scientific justification and modified accordingly to be legitimately maintained.

The IPPC also has dispute settlement provisions in the instance where measures may be challenged. The dispute settlement process under the IPPC offers an alternative for examining controversial issues at a technical level. Although the dispute settlement process in the IPPC is non-binding, the results of the process can be expected to have substantial influence in disputes that may be raised to the WTO under the SPS Agreement.

Since 1989, the IPPC has devoted substantial effort to the development of standards and the provision of other guidance for the conduct of pest risk analysis (PRA). The application of risk analysis in practice combined with what has been learned through the case history of SPS disputes in the WTO has resulted in greater refinement of the risk analysis methods used by the phytosanitary community.


The Interim Commission for Phytosanitary Measures (ICPM), which last met on 4-8 October 1999, has adopted two new standards; Guidelines for the establishment of pest free places of production and pest free production sites, and a revised Glossary of phytosanitary terms. The ICPM also established a working group to study phytosanitary aspects of genetically modified organisms, biosafety and invasive species. Priority was given to developing international standards on non-manufactured wood packaging, pest reporting, pest listing, regulated non-quarantine pests, and systems approaches for risk management. The ICPM also agreed to begin defining its role in the area of technical assistance to developing countries.