The issue of import tolerances

The difference in treatment between European products and imported products is exacerbated by import tolerances, which are requests for upward revisions of maximum residue limits that manufacturers or third countries can introduce for imported foodstuffs.

Under European regulations, MRLs can be established or revised at the request of any party justifying a legitimate interest, including companies that manufacture these products. In this context, specific MRLs, even for substances prohibited in the EU, can be requested to allow the importation of products treated with these substances. This is referred to as import tolerances.

Ending import tolerances is one of the complementary measures that must necessarily accompany the implementation of mirror measures.

"There is a growing tension between the expectations of European consumers that imported food should not contain pesticides that are not approved in the EU and the international commitments of the EU, in particular in the context of the WTO. The EU regularly incorporates limits agreed in Codex Alimentarius that are safe for consumers into its MRL Regulation, which facilitates international trade. At the same time, there is criticism from within the EU that MRLs which are safe for consumers are set for non-approved active substances (so-called “import tolerances”), e.g. in cases where the EU non-approval decision was not due to public health reasons, but for instance based on environmental risks. This allows imports of products treated with active substances that are not available to EU farmers, thus negatively affecting the competitiveness of EU agriculture, as well as the environment in third countries"

(Source : Report of the EU Commission, 2020)

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