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Global Food Governance

Implications of Food Safety and Quality Standards in International Trade Law


Mariela Maidana-Eletti

With increasingly globalised markets, changing consumer preferences and the steady development of technologies influencing food trade flows, safety and quality concerns have triggered the development of new forms of global (food) governance. Since its creation in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has succeeded in providing a multilateral legal framework for the development of regulatory practices through its multiple agreements. Similarly, the continuing importance of regional and bilateral trade agreements, such as in the European Union and in Switzerland, has enhanced WTO’s accomplishments through a comprehensive and dynamic set of international rules and standards for trade. However, the changing trends in the production and distribution of food products have questioned the effectiveness of the regulatory status quo. This book addresses the legal aspects of the current global architecture for food governance, particularly with regard to the role of international standards. In doing so, this work attempts at mapping the implications of domestic food measures in international trade law.


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3. Food Standard-Setting Organisations


3.1 Introduction The previous chapter showed that standard-setting organisations with international dimensions play a fundamental role in assessing the WTO compatibility of domestic regulation. This also holds true for food safety and quality standards. While the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is the leading standard-setting body for food safety, the International Or- ganisation for Standardization (ISO), with its comprehensive set of stand- ards, has also acquired an important role in aspects related to food quality. Although there exist other relevant standard-setting organisations with their own internal dispute settlement mechanisms140 for animal health and zoonoses141 as well as for plant health,142 this chapter will not deal with them.143 The various obligations of WTO members to base their domestic measures in relevant international standards justify an analysis in the following sections. In spite of their voluntary nature, the standards designed by relevant international standard-setting bodies have there- fore received a higher and sometimes disputed legal status. This is due to the explicit inclusion in WTO instruments – as it is the case with 140 Marina Foltea, International Organizations in WTO Dispute Settlement: How Much Sensitivity? Cambridge University Press 2012, p. 157. 141 Such as the International Office of Epizootics, fr. International des Epizooties [OIE]. 142 Such as the International Plant Protection Convention [IPPC]. 143 For a short overview of the IPPC and the OIE see: Terence Stewart/David Johansen, ‘The SPS Agreement of the World Trade Organisation and Interntion- al Organisations: The Roles of the Codex Alimentarious Commission, the Inter- national Plant Protection Convention...

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