U.S. Food Exports:

Five Countries' Standards and Procedures for Testing Pesticide Residues

NSIAD-91-90: Published: Dec 20, 1990. Publicly Released: Jan 23, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) U.S. efforts to prevent or resolve trade disputes over pesticide use; (2) four Pacific Rim countries' and Australia's procedures for setting tolerance levels and testing for pesticides on U.S.-exported produce; and (3) those foreign governments' technical capabilities for pesticide testing.

GAO found that: (1) the United States made such multilateral, bilateral, and administrative efforts as establishing ad hoc technical working groups and task forces to resolve foreign countries' pesticide concerns; (2) the potential for trade disputes remained due to most foreign countries' lack of information on U.S. pesticide use; (3) Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand set tolerance levels for a number of pesticides, but conducted pesticide testing less routinely than the United States and had varying monitoring standards and procedures; and (4) the five countries conducted pesticide residue testing at technically capable laboratories, but their use of various testing methods could contribute to variations in test results.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help reduce the likelihood and impact of future disruptions of U.S. agricultural exports caused by foreign concerns over pesticides, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop mechanisms for routinely providing U.S. trading partners with information on pesticides used on U.S. exported produce. Such information should include U.S. pesticide use patterns, tolerances, and sampling and residue testing methods.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA is prepared to provide trading partners with available information concerning pesticide tolerances, and sampling and testing methodologies used in the United States. Full regulatory information on approved pesticides, permitted uses and residue tolerances are available.

    Recommendation: To help reduce the likelihood and impact of future disruptions of U.S. agricultural exports caused by foreign concerns over pesticides, the Secretary of Agriculture should establish ad hoc technical working groups with more U.S. trading partners to address technical problems related to agricultural trade, such as pesticide usage, and to resolve disputes over differences in standards and testing procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA has established the Office of Food Safety and Technical Services as the primary contact point for inquiries relating to foreign standards, sanitary/phytosanitary regulations and quality and quantity complaints. In addition, the Office acts as the agricultural inquiry point for the GATT Standards Code.

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