The three standard-setting organizations explicitly referenced in the SPS Agreement had been in existence long before the Uruguay Round begun. However, prior to the adoption of the SPS Agreement, their norms were not directly linked with any international trade agreement. This changed with the inception of the SPS Agreement, which, through Article 3, recognizes the standards, guidelines and recommendations of these international bodies. The SPS Committee also monitors the use of these international standards.
The work of the three sister organizations depends on the participation of their members. All Members of the SPS Agreement are therefore encouraged to become members of these organizations and to actively participate in the work agendas of the three sister organizations. Membership in these organizations compared to that of the WTO is shown in document G/SPS/GEN/49/Rev.3.
Codex Alimentarius Commission back to top
In the early 1960s, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the importance of developing international food standards for the purposes of protecting public health and minimizing disruption of international food trade. The Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program was established, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission was designated to administer the program.
The leaders who established the Food Standards Programme and the Codex Alimentarius Commission were concerned with protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. They felt that both of these objectives could be best met if all countries harmonized their food regulations and adopted internationally agreed standards. Through harmonization, they envisaged fewer barriers to trade and a freer movement of food products among countries, which would be to the benefit of farmers and their families and would also help to reduce hunger and poverty. The founders concluded that the Food Standards Programme would be a solution to some of the difficulties that were impeding free trade.
The advantages of having universally uniform food standards for the protection of consumers were recognized by international negotiators during the Uruguay Round. It is not surprising, therefore, that the SPS Agreement and TBT Agreement both encourage the international harmonization of food standards. Importantly, the SPS Agreement cites Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations as the preferred international measures for facilitating international trade in food.
The Codex Alimentarius is a science-based activity. Independent experts and specialists in a wide range of disciplines have contributed to its work to ensure that its standards withstand the most rigorous scientific scrutiny. The work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, together with that of FAO and WHO in their supportive roles, has provided a focal point for food-related scientific research and investigation, and the Commission itself has become an important international medium for the exchange of scientific information about the safety of food.
Over the years, the Codex has developed over 200 standards covering processed, semi-processed or raw foods intended for sale for the consumer or for intermediate processing; over 40 hygienic and technological codes of practice; evaluated over 1000 food additives and 54 veterinary drugs; set more than 3000 maximum levels for pesticide residues; and specified over 30 guidelines for contaminants.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission secretariat is based at the FAO headquarters in Rome. For more information, visit the Codex website at http://codexalimentarius.net.
Office International des Epizooties back to top
The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) is the world organisation for animal health recognized by the SPS Agreement. Founded in 1924, the OIE has three main missions:
- To inform members of the occurrence and course of animal diseases throughout the world and of means of controlling these diseases;
- To co-ordinate international research devoted to the surveillance and control of animal diseases; and
- To promote the harmonisation of health regulations for trade in animals and animal products among members.
These missions are achieved through different activities including the establishment of standards, guidelines and recommendations pertaining to animal health. Examples of the OIE work in this area include the following:
- International Animal Health Code (for mammals, birds and bees)
- Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines
- International Aquatic Animal Health Code (for fish, molluscs and crustaceans), and Manual for Aquatic Animal Diseases
- Lists of countries recognised as being free from the most serious diseases (foot and mouth disease, rinderpest)
The OIE keeps lists of the most important diseases. List A diseases are transmissible diseases that have the potential for very serious and rapid spread, irrespective of national borders, which are of serious socio-economic or public health consequence and which are of major importance in the international trade of animals and animal products. List B diseases are defined as transmissible diseases which are considered to be of socio-economic and/or public health importance within countries and which are significant in the international trade of animals and animal products.
The above-mentioned Codes as well as their associated Manuals are designed as reference documents to be used by the veterinary administrations or the competent authorities of the member countries, to assist them in establishing the health regulations that their countries should apply to the import and export of live animals and animal products, so that the spreading of pathogens responsible for List A or List B diseases to other animals or to human beings is avoided.
In addition to recommendations specific to List A and List B diseases, the OIE has also developed general principles relating to risk analysis methodology, which is comprised of four components, namely import risk assessment, assessment of veterinary services, zoning/regionalisation, and surveillance and monitoring.
As scientific knowledge on disease agents and their ways of diffusion increases every day, new diagnostic techniques become available, and control methods become more refined, the OIE Codes and Manuals are revised on a regular basis. For the development of OIE recommendations, the procedures within the OIE encourage the active participation of countries in drawing up the rules that will apply both to others and to themselves. These recommendations are established by consensus by members’ senior veterinary authorities.
The OIE headquarter is located in Paris, France. For more information, visit the OIE website at
Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention back to top
The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is a multilateral treaty for international cooperation in plant protection The Convention makes provision for the application of measures by governments to protect their plant resources from harmful pests (phytosanitary measures) which may be introduced through international trade. The IPPC is deposited with the Director-General of the FAO and is administered through the IPPC Secretariat located in FAO’s Plant Protection Service. The IPPC was first adopted in 1951 and has been amended twice, most recently in 1997.
The revision of the IPPC approved in 1997 represents an updating of the Convention to reflect contemporary phytosanitary concepts and the role of the IPPC in relation to the Uruguay Round Agreements of the WTO, particularly the SPS Agreement. The SPS Agreement identifies the IPPC as the organization providing international standards for phytosanitary measures. The IPPC complements the SPS Agreement by providing the international standards that help to ensure that phytosanitary measures have a scientific basis for their placement and strength and are not used as unjustified barriers to international trade.
IPPC work includes standards on pest risk analysis, requirements for the establishment of pest-free areas, and others which give specific guidance on topics related to the SPS Agreement.
The Secretariat of the IPPC is located at the FAO headquarters in Rome. For more information, visit the IPPC website at http://www.ippc.int.