WTO Ministerial Conference—Science must underpin our global trading systemFebruary 2, 2018Hub ArticleIn December 2017, at the 11th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, Canada and 16 other countries issued a joint statement. The statement calls on WTO members to respect science when developing measures to ensure food safety and to protect animal and plant health. The joint statement speaks to the existing WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement, which states that trade regulations must be based on science, and applied only to the extent required to protect human, animal and plant health. With 90 per cent of Canadian canola exported, having international trading rules that are based on science is critical. Farmers need access to new tools and technologies to meet evolving agronomic and weather-related challenges, as well as the confidence that their canola can access international markets. Innovation is critical to grow our global food supply, and science-based standards facilitate trade while ensuring farmers' access to the newest technology. CCGA welcomed the joint statement, that calls on WTO members "to strengthen the implementation of the WTO [Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)] Agreement by reinforcing the work of relevant international standard setting organizations, and ensuring the scientific basis of SPS measures is sound." The statement also recognizes that farmers require a "full range of tools and technologies" to grow more food, and the negative impact that unscientific regulatory barriers have on farmers' choices. Canola farmers have first-hand experience with managing the uncertainty of missing maximum residue limits (MRL) for pesticides and approvals for biotech seed traits, as well as plant health regulations relating to blackleg into key export markets. The statement specifically supports actions to enhance CODEX's ability to set global MRLs for pesticides. A strengthened CODEX could provide the global standard, providing better clarity to governments when developing MRLs and leading to greater harmonization of limits among markets. Farmers benefit from a strong multilateral system and robust rules to govern trade in agriculture products. Previous multilateral negotiations have resulted in tariff reductions and important disciplines, including limits on domestic support and rules for setting technical trade regulations and standards. The biennial WTO Ministerial Conference provides a regularized platform to bring countries together to discuss and advance issues of importance to the international trading system.