Prague, 31 January 2001
Dr Mike M o o r e
World Trade Organization (WTO)
154 rue de Lausanne
1211 Geneva 21
Re: Abolition of the WTO "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures"
Dear Dr Moore,
I am writing, as former United Nations' officer responsible for animal health programmes working the whole professional life in this domain, to inform you about catastrophic consequences of the WTO "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures" (SPS).
Key criteria of any international document of this type are only results and impacts of its practical implementation. SPS giving priority to benevolent risky import has significantly contributed to animal diseases spreading through international trade. SPS has caused irreparable consequences for human and animal health, environment, economics and animal welfare. In no other commodities the quality requirement has been so degraded as in this case.
I have sent to the Office International of Epizootics (OIE), organization providing detailed guidelines for SPS implementation, several urgent warnings about rapidly worsening of global animal health through international trade. Unfortunately, all have been left without corresponding actions, obviously due to WTO/OIE agreement. This is the reason why I am writing directly to you who is the highest responsible and decision-competent officer of the WTO.
SPS not respecting basic medical principle "Primum non nocere !" de facto officially started globalization of infectious and parasitic diseases of animals, including zoonoses transmissible to man. SPS is based upon risky trade at the expense of animal and human health. This policy cannot be professionally justified and is undefendable in public, among consumers, farmers, etc.. Recent unbelievable events related to BSE represent the latest example of SPS impacts calling for immediate corrective actions.
I have tried to find out how SPS was prepared, justified and presented to member country governments for its approval at ministerial meeting in Marrakesh on 15 April 1994. I have learnt that SPS was not based upon scientific principles and complex analyses of practical impacts. Background information concealed the truth about human health, animal health, ecological and economic as well as animal welfare negative consequences. It was a big swindle ! It confused the governments and ministers who approved it (in bloc with other documents as condition sine qua non for WTO membership) in good faith in WTO HQs fairness.
Cosmetic amendments cannot save the SPS based upon false concept admitting "negative trade effect" upon health, i.e. diseases spreading. It doesn't know terms such as "healthy animals", "wholesome animal products", "zero-risk import", "avoiding diseases spreading" or principle "quality first", i.e. in our case "health first !".
Please, find attached "Justification of the abolition of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures". It contains analysis of SPS animal health part.
WTO is responsible for global disastrous consequences of SPS. I hope that you will understand my concern and arrange, as emergency measure, for immediate abolition of this damaging document. SPS has already caused enough harms !
International trade yes, but with pathogen free healthy animals and animal products avoiding diseases spreading !
Prof. MVDr Vaclav K o u b a, DrSc. *)
P.B. 516, 17000 Praha 7, Czech Rep.
Annex: 10 pages
- Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General, World Health Organization, Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27,Switzerland
- Dr Jaques Diouf, Director General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Roma , Italy
- Dr Bernard Vallat, Director General, Office International of Epizootics, 12 rue de Prony, 75017 Paris, France
- Dr Klaus Topfer, Director General, United Nationals Environmental Programme, P.B.Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
- President, World Society for the Protection of Animals,
Avenue du Mont Blanc, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
*) Formerly: Chief, Animal Health Service, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); OIE Informatics Expert;
WHO Veterinary Public Health Expert;
Editor, FAO-OIE-WHO Animal Health Yearbook.
JUSTIFICATION OF THE ABOLITION OF THE WTO "AGREEMENT ON THE APPLICATION OF SANITARY AND PHYTOSANITARY MEASURES" (SPS)
1) Disastrous practical results and impacts are the main reasons for SPS abolition. I have analyzed OIE "World Animal Health" yearbooks and Internet information about infectious and parasitic diseases introduced through trade after 1995,i.e., when SPS came into force. In spite of after-SPS stop of regular reporting on disease introduction through trade, I have found many alarming ad hoc information sent by member countries:
- more than one hundred cases of disease introduction (including the most dangerous diseases, zoonoses transmissible to man and intercontinental transmissions) through legal trade with international veterinary certificates;
- about forty historically first cases of important animal diseases introduced through international trade into so far specific disease free countries;
- great number of cases of disease reintroduction through international trade into countries being for many years (up to 92) specific disease free.
This is only "peak of iceberg" of SPS negative impacts ! SPS de facto started globalization of animal diseases !
2) SPS starts with attractive and promising statement "Desiring to improve the human health, animal health .. in all Members;". However, in the whole document is no one word about the improvement of the health ! In contrast with this statement SPS is concerned only how to "facilitate trade" at the expense of human and animal health ! This was further swindle to influence countries' decision to approve SPS ! The main swindle was when presenting SPS to country governments - see my letter to DG WTO.
3) Rapidly increasing animal diseases spreading as never before through international trade has become alarming ! Consequences of SPS professionally unjustified benevolence giving priority to risky trade (see Note 1), instead to trade with healthy animals and wholesome animal products free of transmissible pathogens (etiological agents of infectious and parasitic diseases), are disastrous !
4) Requirement for zero-risk trade is missing not only in SPS but also disappeared in OIE International Animal Health Code. In no other trade commodities the quality requirement has been so degraded as in this case.
5) SPS introduced unfair policy of risky imports officially admitting and imposing also import of not healthy animals and not wholesome animal products. According SPS and OIE, as implementing agency, the risk assessment was declared as preferable to zero-risk import ! (Note 1).
6) SPS although permits to importing countries "appropriate level of protection", but only "provided that such measures are not inconsistent with the provisions of SPS" (Art.2.1), i.e. if correspond with SPS benevolent risky import policy.
7) SPS doesn't respect the fact that the main obstacle to animal trade are diseased animals and their products and not preventive measures to protect health of animal and human populations of importing countries.
8) The wordy SPS document becomes "transparent" only when studying its detailed application in the OIE Code and other OIE documents. These confirm fundamental shift in import policy from zero-risk to risk management to "liberalize trade" which de facto means "to liberalize diseases spreading". They support "unimpeded flow" of international trade in animals and animal products "avoiding unjustified trade barriers". Who decides what is "unjustified" ?
9) SPS policy causing diseases spreading through international trade is contrary to the efforts of world community to protect and improve:
a) human health - World Health Organization (WHO) policy and programmes (about 200 animal diseases, including killing ones, are transmissible to man);
b) animal health - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) policy and programmes;
c) natural environment - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - (introduction of pathogens into natural environment is practically irreparable);
d) animal welfare programmes (mass suffering due to infectious and parasitic diseases); etc.
10) SPS officially admits and supports actions causing conscious man-made diseases spreading affecting not only animal health and welfare but also human beings as well as causing environmental disasters. In many countries these acts belong under criminal code. Conscious man-made international spreading of human diseases belongs among crimes against humanity.
Note 1) : OIE International Animal Health Code, Special Edition, 1997, Article 126.96.36.199: "Import risk analysis is preferable to a zero-risk approach." !?
11) SPS doesn't respect even WTO general principle "quality
first" which requires the best possible grade of commodities for international trade. SPS represents a boomerang damaging also international trade. Introduced diseases into exporting countries can paralyze the trade due to the lost of exportation market (e.g., BSE recently paralyzed trade in cattle and beef in Europe; see also Note 3).
12) SPS policy causing diseases spreading through trade goes against:
preventive medicine (Primum non nocere! – First not to harm!), scientific knowledge, practical experience, professional logic and ethics;
b) protection of consumers against diseases transmissible by food of animal origin;
c) fair trade, general requirement for the best possible quality (incl. guarantee) of exporting commodities;
d) trade deregulation, competition and liberalization, i.e. freedom to decide about import conditions without external interference or dictate (liberalization cannot mean "freedom for diseases spreading" !).
13) SPS underestimates or doesn't respect at all:
a) incomparable difference between inanimate industrial commodities and animals and their products as potential carriers of pathogens ;
b) enormous number of transmissible animal diseases mostly not notifiable, not reported, not monitored and not controlled; many cases of notifiable disease are not reported (Note 2);
c) infinite complexity, diversity and dynamics of diseases (every case is different in time and place, stages such as incubation, manifestation, etc.) and of pathogens (e.g. strains' virulence, resistance, ability to propagate
Note 2) :Dictionary of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University Press/Ames, 1999, p. 147: "It is assumed, that for every case of salmonellosis recorded in humans in the United States at least nine are not reported." This is the reality in human diseases reporting and what about animal diseases reporting ?
Note 3) :OIE World Animal Health, 1997, p. 317-319:" Taiwan had been free of FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) over 68 years before 1997. FMD occurred in March 1997 and stormed the whole island that leads to tremendous economic impact due to the loss of exportation market... During the four-months epidemic period, a total of 6,147 farms was infected..." ! G. Davies in Rev.sci.tech.OIE,1993, p. 1115: In EU during 1977-1987 average ratio primary/secondary outbreaks of FMD was 1 : 54 !
horizontally and "vertically" to next generations and reproduce having multiplying negative effect) (Note 3);
d) pathogen carriers and disease subclinical forms with insidious propagation;
e) previously unknown emerging diseases (lesson from BSE !), new and "exotic" strains of known pathogen species;
f) past experience with negative multiplying impacts of diseases spreading upon animal and human health, environment, animal welfare, economics, etc.;
g) fact, that the knowledge of real occurrence of almost all diseases is limited (ad hoc reports of manifest cases only are
far from true occurrence) or not available at all (including emerging diseases);
h) fact that eradication of introduced and spread diseases is extremely difficult (Note 3), usually very costly and takes years up to decades and in most diseases is not yet feasible;
i) limits of diagnostic tests sensitivity causing false negative results;
j) difficulties of government veterinary services to control effectively on the spot the trade in animals and their products, to inspect often permeable country and disease free zones borders (sometimes illusory) as well as to supervise accredited veterinarians, etc. due to manpower, material, laboratory capacity and budgetary shortage;
k) non-government services are not always reliable and independent (e.g., when testing and issuing export attests for animals and their products of local producers who provide work and income to accredited veterinarians);
l) ability of some pathogens to penetrate "barriers" in spite of the most complete isolation measures (Note 4);
m) that several microbiological pathogens are included in the list of biological arms for mass destruction (these can unconsciously serve as a kind of "bioterrorism" by trade);
n) that among the reasons for import refusal belong also: bad past experience, distrust in health attests and guarantees, distrust in professional competence and responsibility of accredited veterinarians, lack of necessary information about ___________________________________________________________
Note 4) :FAO-WHO-OIE Animal Health Yearbook, 1979, p. 53:" On September 15, 1978, the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center, identified Foot-and-mouth disease (type O) in cattle in a holding area on the Island near the Laboratory." This is the best isolated veterinary laboratory in the world !
diseases occurrence and veterinary services, fear of farmers and consumers of risky commodities import (e.g., BSE), etc. How to justify "scientifically" these reasons, as SPS requires?
o) social-economic aspects, legislation, discipline in observing laws, regulations and instructions; etc.
14) Profiting exporters (traders, businessmen) of these commodities have almost never paid losses caused by introduction of disease if detected after quarantine. Only they enjoy zero-risk trading in animal commodities ! These losses and eradication programmes must be financed by taxpayers of importing countries ! Note 5). SPS doesn't ask exporters and certifying veterinarians to be accountable for "disease export" consequences.
15) SPS policy is dangerous and risky namely for importing
countries with favorable animal health situation thanks also
to previous successful disease eradication programmes (usually very demanding, expensive and long time). These countries logically need higher grade of protection avoiding
reintroduction of before eradicated diseases and introduction of " exotic" diseases.
16) In SPS is no one word about the duty of exporting countries: to export healthy animals and wholesome animal products; to provide all necessary, reliable, true, complete and convincing information needed for importing country decision, to guarantee health quality and be responsible for eventual negative consequences due to export of diseases agents; etc. In SPS is no one word about the need to produce healthy animals and their wholesome products and thus to avoid export difficulties. In SPS is no one word about the need to avoid possible unfair behaviour of exporting countries, in contrast with its concern only about possible unfair behaviour of importing countries which is the main idea of this document. SPS represents globally organized "demotivation" of exporting countries as far as diseases control and eradication programmes are concerned.
Note 5) Eradication of Cochliomyia hominivorax, horrible myiasis affecting all mammals, including man, introduced through trade into North Africa from South America cost 80 million US$ (losses not included); exporting country (traders) contributed nothing ! (FAO). Catastrophic consequences of bovine spongiform encephalopathy introduction through trade are paid by importing countries taxpayers and not by the exporters how it would be normal in case of industrial commodities.
Note 6) :International Animal Health Code, Sixth Edition,1992, Foreword: "the Code... is the fruit of a consensus of the highest veterinary health authorities of the Member Countries."
17) SPS deprives importing countries authorities responsible for animal and human health protection from having right to decide, without interference or dictate from outside, under which conditions to import animals and their products .
18) SPS is lacking "transparency". Definitions of terms such as "sanitary measures" (this is a confusion), "scientifically justified", "appropriate level of protection", "low disease prevalence", etc. are not uniformly interpretable.
19) SPS is unilateral document unscrupulously discriminating importing countries. For example, SPS asks several times that these countries must "scientifically justify" the refusal of risky import or when asking for better guarantees than described in OIE Code. This kind of requirement is unknown in all other commodities !).
20) SPS converted former extremely useful recommendations of the OIE Code into obligatory maximal limit for protective measures not permitting better protection without so called "scientific justification". However, OIE Code has always been based upon consensus only (Note 6). Why to ask importing countries to "justify scientifically" more demanding import conditions than OIE Code being only result of consensus ?
21) Former OIE policy was always to avoid spread of diseases offering reasonable flexibility in defining necessary protective measures. The principle of the before-SPS OIE Code was always to define recommended conditions for zero risk imports, i.e. avoiding the risk of diseases spreading. This corresponded with all other international trade norms representing requirements for minimum acceptable quality, i.e. admitting better quality. SPS and follow-up OIE Code unfortunately changed the minimum requirements into maximum and eliminated basic principle "to avoid risk of spreading". (Note 7).
This fact can provoke discussions among member countries why to finance organization which not only doesn't respect own main original mandate but even goes against it! ___________________________________________________
Note 7) : International Animal Health Code, Sixth Edition, 1992, Foreword: "The principal aim of the IAH Code of the OIE is to facilitate international trade in animals and animal products through the detailed definition of the minimum health guarantees to be required of trading partners, so as to avoid the risk of spreading animal diseases inherent in such exchanges."
Note 8): Papers published about "risk assessment" have shown that how many authors so many different methods. I have found examples of mathematical phantasy (may be theoretically correct), artificially minimizing risk ad absurdum having nothing to do with reality and practical life. E.g. in OIE/WTO Seminar on Risk Analysis, Animal Health and Trade, Paris, May 1995, organized to instruct OIE delegates, were presented many nonsense examples such as "risk is one in 10 billion", "risk of one in a hundred billion" etc. to "facilitate trade" !?
22) Very bad example of SPS has been imposed upon regional international organizations and individual countries and thus has contributed to multiplied negative consequences of risky trade under restricted protection of population health.
23) SPS key principle is risky trade and in this context so called "risk assessment". The methodology provided by SPS follow-up WTO/OIE seminars and training courses and by OIE Code has proved to be not transparent and their results difficult to defend (theory isolated from practical life). Risk assessment has been abused, when using mathematical models not respecting all important factors, trying to convince importing countries that the risk has been "exceedingly small" and thus to "facilitate trade" (de facto to facilitate diseases spreading). Note 8). Reasonable evaluation of import risk had been current practice long before SPS.
24) OIE reduced information system instead to provide more and better data on diseases status needed for import decision. Importing countries have less information about diseases status required for decision making than before SPS ! This obviously follows absolutely false and very dangerous "philosophy", professionally unacceptable, that "when we have available risk reducing tools (tests, treatments, whatever)... what does it matter what starting risk was ?" This means, what does it matter what diseases situation was in herd, locality, zone and country of exporting commodity origin.
25) OIE information system is far from providing necessary data for "risk assessment". Useful set of indicators about different disease occurrence grades for systematic reporting was abolished and replaced by a symbol "+" which is practically uninterpretable (it can mean one imported case in quarantine of otherwise disease free country or many millions of cases spread all over the country); absolute data about occurrence are mostly ad hoc reported cases not reflecting true status (see Note 3)) and therefore confuse importing countries. Necessary information about the size of active investigations to discover true occurrence and their results are not collected. Regular data on diseases prevalence are not available as well. Reporting of List C diseases (including also some transmissible to man) was stopped. Many countries do not send reports on diseases situation to OIE.
26) There are many other facts demonstrating risky benevolence of SPS and OIE Code (Note 9). Among these belongs SPS text (Art.5, para 5) openly admitting risks for human beings: "...
Note 9): Latest issue of the OIE Code 2000: Article 188.8.131.52 is still admitting and supporting import of cattle, fresh meat and meat products of cattle from a country or zone with a high incidence of BSE ! According to OIE Code the refusal of these commodities must be scientifically justified in spite of several years of alarming experience !?
exceptional character of human health risks to which people voluntarily expose themselves." This statement confirms SPS "antimedical" policy admitting explicitly import of commodities with pathogens transmissible to man !
27) There are countries not respecting SPS and OIE Code, e.g., banning import without "scientific justification" and without any consequences for them (double standard ?). (Note 10).
investigations = no knowledge). Everybody must be responsible for his signature similarly as when exporting industrial commodities. Importing side is interested first in the final product quality and not so much in production process or "risk management" or "sanitary measures". This facilitates reclamation and material (financial) consequences for exporting side in case of disease export.
28. Contents of veterinary attests represents other benevolence. OIE Code asks signing veterinarians to confirm only a series of otherwise useful conditions, such as tests, no evidence of clinical signs, etc., instead to guarantee pathogen free status and being for this statement fully responsible. Importing country is interested first in the guarantee that the animals or animal products are pathogen free. Eventual alibi of attesting officer that he "doesn't known" infectious diseases situation is problematic (no
29. OIE Code, following SPS policy, contains also chapters explicitly supporting diseases spreading. For example, OIE Code applies surveillance systems permitting animals for export also if specific disease affects (up to 5%) local population ! These methods cannot be acceptable for exporting
purposes which require healthy animals without pathogens ! See Note 11). OIE Code 2000 Users' Guide calls as "irresponsible to insist on guarantees as to the absence of commonly found
Note 10): Most recent example of not respecting SPS and OIE Code: In January 2001 New Zealand prohibited import of beef and beef products from all countries of Europe including from BSE free countries (even not importing from BSE countries). This was, using SPS wording, "inconsistent with the provisions of the SPS", without "sufficient scientific evidence", without "documented transparent risk assessment techniques", without any discussion with exporting countries, without respecting bilateral agreements, without respecting that BSE free countries have the same BSE free situation as in New Zealand which "unjustifiably discriminates countries where identical conditions prevail" and "constitutes a disguised restriction on international trade". From this country comes a fervent defender of the SPS, influential man in the OIE, who wrote "what does it matter what starting risk was?".
Note 11): OIE Code 2000, chapter 2.10.2, for Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium in poultry doesn't require to attest that the birds are healthy (i.e. free of these agents); Code requires only that the birds come from establishment without evidence of the diseases using monitoring methodology (184.108.40.206) "able to detect one positive sample given that the infection is present in the population at a level of 5% and greater."!?
infectious that are present in the importing country". This justifies import of animals and animal products not being free of pathogens. Why importing country must permit worsening of health situation and pay for it?
30. SPS has caused difficult-to-recover dangerous damages in theoretical and practical veterinary medicine due to extreme degradation of animal population prevention as never in the whole veterinary history. This false concept has already caused unacceptable underestimation and reduction of preventive component in field practice, education, training, research, publications and minimization (instead of strengthening) of government services capability to cope with animal health/diseases and trade. SPS false philosophy means to abandon the basic role of veterinary medicine by converting population prevention into "fire-fighting" system and by accepting animal diseases spreading! The worst is that SPS concept is being unscrupulously imposed upon the way of thinking of new generation of veterinarians strongly influenced by lack of financial attractiveness of population prevention in comparison with treating individual sick animals.
31. Veterinary medicine was always giving the priority to prevention, i.e. to protect healthy animals and specific diseases free territories. First duty of international organizations responsible for animal health policy is to assist member countries in promoting, protecting and recovery of population health and not in admitting or even supporting diseases spreading !
32) The situation in diseases spreading through trade as never before (in spite of having rich scientific knowledge as never before !) has become alarming. Very limited number of successfully finished eradication programmes is absolutely unable to compensate enormous number of new outbreaks and newly diseased animals due to risky benevolent trade. Rapidly worsening of international situation calls for international alarm and immediate adequate emergency actions !
Recommendations for WTO
I) To abolish immediately the SPS (at least "sanitary" parts) and thus to avoid further irreparable losses and other unacceptable consequences due to diseases spreading ! There are enough alarming information to justify stop of this disastrous policy.
II) To declare that the main obstacle of international trade are diseased animals and their products and not preventive measures of importing countries.
III) To support trade only with pathogens free healthy animals and wholesome animal products to avoid diseases spreading.
IV) To revoke relevant WTO/OIE Agreement which enforced OIE to be the main channel for implementation of SPS. This will allow OIE to return to its original purpose and policy (updated OIE Code as recommendations for avoiding diseases spreading) and to amend restored before-SPS information system to provide necessary data for import decisions.
V) To declare the right of importing country government authorities responsible for the protection of animal and human health to decide, considering OIE Code recommendations, about import conditions without any outside interference or dictate. Let importing and exporting countries to find the solutions (incl. acceptable compromises) themselves.
VI) To inform member country governments and world public through international mass media about the change of WTO policy and to advise how to protect country territory against introduction of animal diseases during international trade.
Prof.MVDr V. Kouba, DrSc.