The European Union's proposal of reducing the maximum residue limits (MRLs) of pesticides in agricultural products will directly impact Costa Rican exports. As a result, Costa Rica presented a concern about the issue to the World Trade Organization's Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.
The Costa Rican banana sector, which places 53% of its exports in the EU, would be one of the most affected. In 2019, Costa Rica exported 121 million boxes of 18.14 kilos of bananas, which wouldn't have been possible under the new requirements.
The new requirements would also affect other Latin American exporters of this fruit. As a result, banana organizations from Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize, as well as multinationals in the sector, expressed their concern.
In the event that the EU authorities do not recognize the technical reasons provided for not changing the MRLs, they will jointly support the governments' efforts before the WTO, they emphasized in a statement.
Establishing the MRLs
A document from the Costa Rican State Phytosanitary Service (SFE) indicates that Costa Rica expressed before the WTO its concerns that the EU would not renew the authorization of the use of chlorothalonil, a fungicide used in banana production. They also expressed concern about the reduction of the MRL for buprofezin, an agrochemical used in banana production, and for thiabendazole, a fungicide used in the production of fruits and legumes.
The SFE document on this issue indicates that conducting the residue studies for each product costs $ 250,000 and Costa Rica must carry them out for 5,500 different agricultural goods. This cost doesn't take into account toxicological, physicochemical tests, and evaluation costs, the report warns.
That's why the country adopts the MRLs determined in the Codex Alimentarius and if they do not exist in that system, the MRLs of groups of countries, such as the EU, or the MRLs established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In this context, 2,865 MRLs of the nearly 5,463 MRLs in force for Costa Rica were adopted from the EU, as they were absent in the Codex or in the EPA, the SFE document stated.
The SFE document also stated that Costa Rica advocates the adoption of harmonized codes to determine MRLs.