are based on science, including risk
assessment. There may be many reasons for variation in regulations. For
example, differences in dietary exposure
may lead to differences in risk assessment results. Other factors (e.g., cultural
preferences, animal welfare) may contribute to regional or country-specific
approaches. In addition, Codex recognizes “other legitimate factors” such as
economic feasibility, environmental
concerns, availability of resources that
countries may consider for their national legislation. Codex notes that these
factors should not be used to impede
the adoption of global standards. The
strength of the Codex standards is their
basis in science and risk assessment.
BVDM: Exporters must always adjust labeling already because of differing
languages. GMOs are very discordant
and [so are] levels of contaminants.
Many countries rely on standards of
identity of foods that may cause important barriers to trade.
AAB: At the European level, the tendency is to harmonize the food legislation at the community level, yet not all
aspects have switched to this approach,
so the member states are left with the
freedom to choose whether to prohibit
or approve the cultivation of GMOs,
what foodstuffs can be irradiated, or
to set permitted chemicals and doses
to be used, etc. Moving on to a global
market, food legislation has its own particularities and discrepancies, dependent
on the jurisdiction; so it is not only
one area of food law that needs attention regarding global harmonization.
Inconsistencies of food regulations are
not always justified and often lead to
the needless destruction of food, trade
barriers, and hindrance of innovation.
GHI is a nongovernmental, nonprofit network of scientists striving for the promotion of harmonized food safety legislation globally. The members of GHI do not
represent their employer, but their contribution is based on their individual scientific conscience.
The Food Law and Regulations Working Group tries to understand causes of differences, advance and propose possible instruments for food law implementation,
having scientific evidence as a main pillar.
Li Li: I engage in the assessment of
the national supervision system for foods
exported to China and research the application of HACCP systems.
FSM: Which areas of food regulations
do you feel are the most discordant between
countries [e.g., allowed chemicals and doses,
GMOs, irradiation, analytical methods,
labeling]? What suggestions do you have for
harmonizing these current regulations?
SAAT: GMOs [genetically modified organisms], analytical methods, and labeling are the most discordant between countries with regards to current food regulations.
The harmonization of current food regulations can be achieved by:
• Engaging a broader range of relevant stakeholders and observer organizations
(e.g., NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], private sector, consumers)
through intensive communication efforts.
• Embracing new technological developments to avoid regulatory divergence
among high-income countries, while ensuring to avoid creating barriers for low-income countries’ harmonization of food safety regulations and their participation in international trade.
RA: More so than any specific regulation, there is great discord between countries regarding how they develop regulations. Countries that focus on hazards rather
than risks contribute to a general misunderstanding around the safety of global
food systems and promote unproductive and unfounded activism among specific
consumer groups. Unfortunately, countries do not take these approaches to protect
consumers; they take them to promote or protect specific production practices that
would not be economically viable without such protections. These include but are
not limited to use of hormones and veterinary medications in animals, planting and
cultivation of genetically modified organisms, and use of gene editing techniques to
improve products, yields, and consumer health. In this way, some countries undermine the fundamental principles of food safety and international standards for the
short-term benefit of a small number of domestic producers.
In order to meaningfully achieve harmonization of regulations, all countries must
commit to making regulatory decisions based on available, scientifically documented evidence, and using a transparent process for risk analysis and risk management
to inform decision making.
CB: It would be difficult to speculate which areas are the most discordant. It is
important to understand the underlying reasons for these divergences. For example,
the U.S. may develop an MRL [maximum residue limit] for a pesticide before Codex develops an MRL. There may be a difference in the level by the time Codex
undertakes developing an MRL. In addition, there may be differences based on our
The World Trade Organization [WTO] Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary
(SPS) Measures confirms the right of each member to determine its appropriate level
of protection and balances this right with the obligation to ensure its SPS Measures
U.S.: “Cultural and historical factors that
are not based on science can be powerful
determinants related to the rejection of