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country governments that are negotiating market access for their agricultural commodities and raw materials in various multilateral, regional and bilateral agreements, could be provided with information on how future technology development may affect them and the markets that are essential for their economies.

     The potential benefits and risks of nanotechnologies present an example of the benefits for the realization of development and sustainability goals that a technology assessment agreement or agency might afford. There has been considerable reporting and analysis of the potential benefits of nanoscale technologies for developing countries, particularly with regard to water and energy. The potential health and environmental risks of this new technology platform, as well as nanotechnology's potential impacts on commodity markets and the social and economic disruption that may cause, are less well studied. Nanotechnologies are still very new; nonetheless if a new engineered nano-material outperforms a conventional material, including for example cotton textiles, copper or rubber, that are key commodities for developing country economies, significant economic dislocation may result (ETC Group, 2005).

     Emerging technologies, including nanoscale technologies, require scientific, socioeconomic and societal evaluation in order for governments to make informed decisions about heir risks and benefits. Rather than approaching technology assessment in a piecemeal, technology-by-technology fashion, governments and the international community could consider longer term strategies to address technology introduction on an ongoing basis. One option for the international community is to consider an independent body that is dedicated to assessing major new technologies and providing an early warning and early listening system. Comparative technology assessment could help policy makers and stakeholders monitor and assess the introduction of new technologies and their potential socioeconomic, health and environmental impacts.

      One policy approach might be to reinvigorate the capacity of the UN System to Conduct Technology Assessment for Development. The UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development has become a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, where it operates with greatly reduced staff and funding. This commission could be strengthened, or another specialized UN agency could be given the mandate to both conduct technology assessments and build capacity in developing countries to assess technologies, with the goals of promoting poverty reduction, health and environmental protection, and sustainable development (ETC Group, 2005).

     Another policy option could be the establishment of a legally-binding multilateral agreement on comparative technology assessment, potentially negotiated through a specialized agency such as UNCTAD, the ILO, or ECOSOC's Commission on Sustainable Development. The objective of such a convention would be to provide an early warning and assessment framework capable of monitoring and assessing emerging technologies in transparent processes and their potential benefits as well as costs and risks for human health, the environment, and poverty reduction and development. At the same time, such an agreement might help to generate information that would help educate citizens and stakechapter


holder groups, via participatory and transparent processes, support broader societal understanding of emerging technologies, encourage scientific innovation, and facilitate equitable benefit and risk-sharing. Alternatively, a specialized Technology Assessment Agency could be created, within the UN system to conduct comparative technology assessments of new and emerging technologies.

7.3 Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health

The management of food safety, animal and plant health issues along the farm to fork continuum requires a level of coordination and integration that often is not provided by the current international policy and regulatory framework for agriculture. Instead, these three issues are largely addressed in terms of international standards elaboration through parallel programs developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, World Animal Health Organization (OIE) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) for food safety, animal health and plant health respectively. These standards and related sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are implemented and enforced to a greater or lesser degree through an array of often uncoordinated national initiatives variously managed by ministries such as agriculture, health, environment, forestry, fisheries, trade, commerce and international affairs. Related to this lack of coordination, or perhaps because of it, alternative regulatory mechanisms such as third party standard and certification systems mandated by private sector retailers, in response to increased consumer demand for improved food safety and food quality, have been implemented. Much of the cost burden for meeting these private regulatory requirements is borne by primary producers.

     The increasing internationally traded volume and variety of food, food ingredients, feed, animals and plants poses many challenges for private quality assurance programs and government SPS programs. SPS system failures affect both exporting and importing countries. For example, recent U.S. imports of contaminated pet food from China resulted not only in the deaths and illnesses of an unknown number of pets and the closing of 180 processing plants in China, but a U.S. Congressional proposal for reorganization of US food import inspection. Yet proposals to equip SPS authorities and private establishments with adequate personnel and technology to enforce standards sometimes encounter not only bureaucratic resistance and/or opposition from industry segments of the supply chain, but broader resistance based on credible threats of trade retaliation in nonfood and agriculture sectors (Barboza, 2007; Clayton, 2007; Weiss 2007). Whether or not food and agriculture trade expands to the extent projected by FAO for 2030 (FAO, 2006c), the cost-benefit framed tension between measures to protect human, animal and plant health and broader trade pressures is likely to remain.

7.3.1 Food safety Surveillance challenges

The lack of reliable data or data that are comparable between countries on the prevalence and severity of foodborne disease, despite several WHO initiatives to develop global