NEWS from
The International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade

1616 P St NW #100 Washington DC 20036 tel:(202)328-5056 fax:(202)328-5133 internet:


DATE: May 7, 2001
CONTACT: Peter Lacy (202) 328-5056

Qatar Talks a Chance to Address Consumer Confidence in Global Food Supply, Says IPC

Washington, DC - With public attention around the world focused on outbreaks of hoof and mouth disease, regulation of biotechnology and mad cow disease, international trade officials must take steps to build confidence in the global food system if they want to maintain an open, global trading system. Negotiators planning to launch a global round of trade reform talks this fall in Qatar must realize that a lack of consumer confidence in the global food system jeopardizes free trade. Achieving consumer confidence therefore is not just a luxury - it is a necessity in today's global trade environment. This is the main message from the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade (IPC) in its latest position paper, Achieving Public Confidence in the Global Food System.

The paper makes recommendations for the WTO talks aimed at bolstering consumer confidence in the global food system. "In recent years, the public has exercised an increasing influence on international trade," said IPC Chairman Robert L. Thompson. "And as our food system becomes more global, consumer interests are more often spilling over into the trade arena. Maintaining public confidence in the global food system without jeopardizing the benefits that can be derived from a more liberal trading system is a critical issue." The IPC is an independent, international group of agricultural leaders and experts promoting an efficient and open global food and agricultural system.

The most basic consumer interests relating to food are its safety, price and availability. The IPC believes that satisfying these needs is the fundamental role of public policy. Domestic and international regulations that are science-based, transparent and predictable are the best ways to address consumer expectations about food safety. Governments must ensure that industry claims are not false or misleading to consumers. With their basic needs met, the personal preferences of consumers in such areas as production methods can and should be met by the market.

Policies implemented in response to consumer expectations should distort international trade as little as possible, the IPC paper said. This is because an open trading system addresses the most important consumer concern of all - an adequate supply of affordable food. Trade plays a crucial role in generating economic growth, which provides consumers around the world with access to affordable food supplies. Moreover, a global food system based on open trade and guaranteed access to food supplies allows countries to survive domestic production shortfalls and other food crises, without expending precious resources in support of unsustainable production.

The key recommendations of the IPC paper were:

The IPC is an independent organization dedicated to developing policies that support an efficient and open global agricultural system. Its membership includes 35 leaders and experts from 20 developed and developing countries, with backgrounds in farming, business, government and academia. The IPC will be very active during the WTO Round and can be reached at the numbers listed above.