Pesticides are essential crop protection tools used in the production of agricultural crops and other food products to allow agricultural producers to meet the needs of our populations, both in terms of food quality and quantity. Governments regulate pesticides for many reasons, including: To protect human and animal health and the environment; to ensure the effectiveness of pesticide products for their proposed use; and to create a fair market for manufacturers, importers and distributors of pesticide products. Legislation is one of the tools that countries use to achieve these objectives, by regulating the production, importation, transport, storage, sale, use and disposal of pesticides.
The use of pesticides to protect crops may leave residues on these crops; therefore, governments not only regulate pesticides but also establish pesticide maximum residue limits (MRLs). An MRL is the highest level of a given pesticide's residue on a specific crop that is legally tolerated in a government's jurisdiction. Crops treated with pesticides must comply with established (or default) MRLs in order to be sold or imported to a market.
GLOBAL MANAGEMENT EFFORTS
Regulations for pesticides are established at a national level, but there is a long history of coordinated efforts to guide government regulators, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders on best practice in managing pesticides throughout their lifecycle to ensure effective and fair practices. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) adopted the "The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides" to this effect in 1985, and periodically issues a revised version. The current version, now entitled "The International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management" was released in 2014, and is supplemented with a second document, "Guidelines on Pesticide Legislation" published in 2015. [Video of FAO introducing the Code of Conduct and guidelines: https://youtu.be/wDBBPrIijpo] Updating pesticide legislation is a key responsibility identified in the Code of Conduct to ensure effective management across the agencies involved within a government, compliance with international agreements and recommendations, and harmonization with requirements within one's region.
To facilitate the establishment of MRLs, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, an international standard setting body jointly overseen by the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO), has established thousands of voluntary MRLs for global use. Governments may choose to adopt these Codex MRLs or establish their own, using scientific risk assessments.
The task of establishing or adopting pesticide MRLs at the national level requires the evaluation of complex data packages to assess the hazards and the risks that a pesticide residue may pose. This document aims to summarize the process of establishing MRLs to assist Ukrainian regulators and Ukrainian industry stakeholders to understand what MRLs are, the international organizations regulating them on risk-based principles, and WTO obligations governing the alignment and change of MRLs to better inform policy making decisions.