Codex Alimentarius

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Codex: its Functioning
KK EU GM Food Policy'05
WHO'05 Evidence-based
CI's Dec-Mkg Suppan 04
An 'Obscure UN Agency'
ISA'04 Codex Linkages
Principles GM Risk An
Guideline Ass GM Plants
Guideline Ass GM Micro
VeggelandBorgen Oslo02
EC- Sardines 2002
Evaluation Report 2002
CI Edwards Right to Know





The Codex Alimentarius was created in 1961 and consists of a collection of international food standards that have been adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, its governing body. As far as EcoLomics International's scope is concerned, the Codex represents one of its issue areas in view of the standard's involvement in the international regulation of trade in GM food because this is an environment-related food safety issue.


It can be said that in spite of its fundamental importance to the international community as the world's most important reference point in matters concerning food quality and its over 160 member states it is generally not well known. It is sometimes called, for good reason, the least known of all really important multilateral organizations. That is due to some extent to its very complex and highly procedural functioning. Administered jointly by the FAO and the WHO (but financed to approximately 80% by the FAO!) the Codex has achieved a much increased importance since 1995 thanks to the fact that the WTO's SPS Agreement refers to it directly and the TBT Agreement indirectly as their reference point. It has the double and easily conflicting mandate of "protecting the health of consumers and facilitating fair practices in the food trade" (there is no definition provided for the notion of fair trade!).


Given the very substantial responsibilities of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the political stakes, and their economic ramifications, its somewhat forbidding mode of functioning is to a considerable extent unavoidable. It reflects the also highly procedural nature of its counterparts at the national level. The well developed Web site of the Codex Alimentarius is of great assistance in understanding this complex organization. "Understanding the Codex" provides a condensed overview of the mandate and the functioning of the Codex whereas the Procedural Manual contains the Organization's statutes and all the key procedures, principles, guidelines and definitions that allow it to function and to elaborate new standards and related texts. The 2002 internal and external in-depth Evaluation represents the first such exercise in the Codex' more than forty years long history.


The Codex Alimentarius has over twenty sectoral (vertical) and cross-sectoral (horizontal) Committees which usually meet every year and represent each a major international conference with approx. 100 participating delegations and a certain number of industry representatives, NGOs and academic observers (observers without speaking privilege are provided a relatively liberal access). The Codex Committee on General Principles (CCGP) which usually meets in Paris in the spring is the central body which negotiates and prepares strategic issues that tend to be of a procedural as well as political nature. Its conclusions have to be approved subsequently by the legislative body, i.e. the Codex Alimentarius Commission (meeting usually in July, alternatively in Rome and in Geneva).








Codex Alimentarius FAO/WHO Food Standards


Consumers International, London


Consumers Union, New York (Communications Office)


For the most up to date list of negotiations with links to related reports see

IISD/ENB Reporting Services NEWS

especially the "Chemicals Meetings" Section:


FAO, Interdisciplinary Activities domain 'Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture'


Greenpeace (various locations)


International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development, Geneva

Free electronic suscriptions:

Bridges Weekly
Bridges Trade BioRes

Bridges Monthly: on the Web and in Print
Authoritative information on trade and sustainable development

L'Údition franšaise avec Enda-Tiers monde: Passerelles


Urs Klemm

Former Chair FAO/WHO Codex Coordination Committee for Europe


Waste Environment Cooperation Centre WE 2C


WHO, Information on Genetically Modified Food




WTO ANALYTICAL INDEX: Dispute Settlement Understanding - SPS


WTO analytical index: TECHNICAL BARRIERS
Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)


WTO Documents Online