The UN is a major platform for modern nations to meet and interact with one another, and its main goal is to maintain and advance the most appropriate world order for the international community. The UN deals with a very broad range of topics, and issues related to human survival and development have become largely inseparable from the UN and its associated international agencies.
In the current debate over whether to allow imports of US beef with traces of the leanness-enhancing agent ractopamine, Taiwan would do well to refer to the way the Codex Alimentarius Commission is assessing standards for the drug.
Most people in Taiwan are not familiar with the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The commission was established by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the WHO in 1963 to ensure consumers’ access to safe and good-quality food.
Alongside the rapid development of food technology, the commission has been able to put together a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to food, food production and food safety.
This collection of standards is called the Codex Alimentarius, which is Latin for “Book of Food.” It is the most reliable and comprehensive reference for international food policies and food administration standards.
Aside from influencing consumer behavior throughout the world, the Codex Alimentarius provides standards for food manufacturers and processors to follow. It has helped reduce tariff and trade obstacles, thus promoting international trade in food products.
The commission provides its 185 member states (including the EU) and 208 observers with opportunities to discuss and formulate global food safety standards. The Codex system is a major platform for its members to set specific food standards for the international community.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission will hold its 35th session in Rome from Monday to Saturday next week, bringing together academics and experts from around the world, as well as its members and observers, and one of the items that they will discuss is standards for permitted residues of ractopamine.
Hopefully, whatever conclusion the meeting arrives at should help to bring about a consensus in Taiwan and resolve the national debate over whether to allow imports of US beef containing ractopamine residue.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission emphasizes that every person should be able to consume safe, good-quality food. Its purpose is not just to ensure that people can eat their fill, but also to protect everyone’s health rights.
As a member of the global village, Taiwan ought to be part of this important process of establishing international food safety standards, just like other countries.
However, Taiwan unfortunately is not a member state of the UN, so our government does not have the right to participate in the Codex Alimentarius Commission process or to obtain food-safety data directly from the commission. As a result, Taiwan has not been able to keep its food safety standards fully in line with those of the international community.
We must recognize that as long as Taiwan is not a UN member state, Taiwanese will not be able to enjoy the rights and benefits to which they are entitled.
Taiwan’s efforts to become a UN member are a matter not just of politics, but also of Taiwanese people’s quality of life.