International Standard Setting Bodies

The technical standards produced by international setting bodies are not directly binding, but still have great impact, as they can be recognised through, for example, the SPS Agreement (see the section on ‘WTO’). Examples of international standard setting bodies with that are relevant to biotechnology and/or biosafety include:

  • The Codex Alimentarius Commission

  • Commission on Phytosanitary Measures

  • World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)

The Codex Alimentarius Commission 

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. Its aim is to protect the health of consumers and ensuring fair trade practices in the food trade.

Directly relevant to Biotechnology is the ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Food Derived from Biotechnology - Guidance for food safety assessment.

The SPS Agreement of WTO acknowledges Codex standards.


Commission on Phytosanitary Measures 

The Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) has the objective to review the state of plant protection around the world, to identify actions to control the spread of pests into new areas and to develop and adopt international standards for phytosanitary measures, which includes a standard for living modified organisms (ISPM 11).

CPM acts as the governing body of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), adopted in 1951 with the aim to protect cultivated and wild plants by preventing the introduction and spread of pests.

The IPPC standards are recognised by the SPS Agreement of WTO.


World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) 

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was created in the aftermath of the ‘Rinderpest’ epizootic in 1920, where the disease spread from India over to Europe and caused immense losses in to cattle farmers. The Agreement establishing OIE was signed in 1924 in Paris. OIE currently has over 175 member states.

The objectives of OIE are

  • to guarantee the transparency of animal disease status world-wide

  • to collect, analyse and disseminate veterinary scientific information

  • to provide expertise and promote international solidarity for the control of animal diseases

  • to guarantee the sanitary safety of world trade by developing sanitary rules for international trade in animals and animal products.

OIE develops normative documents relating to rules that Member Countries can use to protect themselves from the introduction of diseases and pathogens, without setting up unjustified sanitary barriers. The main normative works produced by the OIE are: the Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals, the Aquatic Animal Health Code and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests for Aquatic Animals.

OIE has an Ad Hoc Group Concerning Animal Production Food Safety that specifically deals with issues pertaining to biotechnology.

OIE standards are recognised by the WTO as reference international sanitary rules.