'Political considerations should not cloud quality norm'

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 29 2009, 22:36pm hrs
The global standard setting body in food, Codex Alimentarius Commission is of the view that the quality norms should be formulated taking into considerations the needs of the developed nations and concerns of the developing countries, more particularly the small and marginal farmers.

The Codex Chairperson, Dr Karen Hulebak in an interactive session with the Indian industry organised in Delhi by FICCI on Friday said : "We have formed a team for formulating standards which would meet the needs of the developed nations and as well as address the concerns of the developing countries."

Unnecessarily stringent quality norms of developed nations are often posing to be non-tariff barriers in trade and to this situation, Dr Hulebak clarified that Codex stantards were based on scientific evidences and care was being taken to bring both sides to negotiations. Political considerations were not being entertained.

"The process may be slow but we are successful in our negotiations. Codex believes in science with a human face. Our success depends upon relationships and trust won overtime. We intend to serve all stakeholders," she said.

Dr Hulebak said that though it was difficult to get data from developing countries, the Codex was trying to investigate through various means. "I and the OIE Director General, Dr Bernard Vallat are of the same view that we need to address all concerns," she said. OIE is the global animal health organisation and is also responsible for setting quality norms.

She said that countries were free to formulate their own standards taking into consideration their situations but they should harmonise with Codex standards to prevent any trade dispute. Harmonisation means that it may not be the same but it should be in conformity with or in equivalence and not in conflict with.

Dr Hulebak, however, admitted and said "we need to find a way in dealing with political and non-science problems in the long term."

She said that the performance of the 182-nation body has improved with greater participation of developing countries. She lauded India as representing as "spokesman of the developing world" on many occassions.

At the 32nd session of the Codex held in July, 2009, Sanjay Dave from India was elected as its Vice Chairperson. Dave is also the Director of Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA), an agency of the Indian government. Also Ben Maniyindo of Uganda and Knud Ostergaard of Denmark were elected as Vice Chairpersons. Dr Karen Hulebak of United States was re-elected as Codex Chairperson

The United States was elected to the Executive Committee as the geographic representative of North America. In taking this decision, the Commission decided that the Chairperson of the Commission did not serve in the capacity as a delegate from a specific country (in this case the United States) but rather as member of Codex at-large, thus exempting this position from inclusion in Rule V of the Codex Rules of Procedure, which specifies that no more than one person from a Member Country may serve on the Executive Committee at any given time.

Dr Hulebak said that India took the initiative alongwith the European Union and US for recognition of conformity assessment for organic products equivalence. JECFA, a body jointly set up by the FAO and the WHO is responsible for deciding on food additives. "It is trying to resolve the contentious issue through compromise. If the food additive is safe it would be included," she said.

Dr Hulebak also participated in the two-day workshop organised by the apex Industry bodies CIFTI and FICCI alongwith USDA and APEDA.