India and sixteen other countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and the US have complained at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the EU decision to amend its policy on the maximum residue levels (MRLs) for a wide range of pesticides mainly used in the cultivation of citrus fruit and bananas.

The countries raised the matter at the meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures on November 7-8 in Geneva and underlined that the new requirements were not backed by science.

“The seventeen countries that raised their voices against the lowered MRL levels by the EU alleged that the bloc was following a precautionary stance in taking its decisions and was disregarding scientific evidence presented by relevant international organisations recognized by the SPS Agreement,” a Geneva-based trade official told BusinessLine .

The seventeen countries that jointly raised their concern include Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Panama and Paraguay. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, United States and Uruguay.

The pesticides for which the MRL has been lowered include buprofezin, diflubenzuron, chlorothalonil, ethoxysulfuron, glufosinate, imazalil, ioxynil, iprodione, molinate, picoxystrobin and tepraloxydim.

Departing from standards

Questions were especially raised on the scientific justification for establishing an MRL of 0.01 mg/kg for imazalil in bananas and departing from the relevant international standard (Codex Alimentarius), which sets an MRL of 2.0 mg/kg.

In its response, the EU said that its decision of lowering MRL was based on a thorough risk assessment and followed rigorous procedures, which were transparent and predictable. Answering requests for longer transition periods, the EU pointed out that these temporary measures to adapt to new conditions were always included in the relevant implementing measures, when there was a certainty that public health was not otherwise compromised.

India’s basmati exports to the EU have already been affected due to the lowering of the MRL on tricyclazole, a fungicide used by Indian farmers.