The Role of the Panel in Settling the Dispute under the SPS Agreement

In the Dispute DS26/DS48 (hereinafter referred to as EC-Hormones), the complainants (United States and Canada) argued with the respondent (European Communities). The prerequisite to the dispute was the ‘EC prohibition on the placing on the market and the importation of meat and meat products treated with certain hormones’ (EC-Hormones 1998). The dispute occurred on 26 January 1996, when the United States requested consultations with the European Communities claiming that the measures undertaken by the EC under the specific Council Directive prohibited or restricted imports of meat and meat products from the United States as inconsistent with provisions of a range of WTO agreements, including Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the SPS Agreement (‘Dispute Settlement: dispute DS 26 n.d.). In this case, the core role of the WTO dispute settlement panel was to report on the consistency or inconsistency of the EC measures under the Article of the SPS Agreement. The panel relied on the scientific evidence provided by both the panel’s experts and the European Communities (EC-Hormones 1998).

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Factors taken into account to determine whether a sanitary measure violates the SPS Agreement.

According to the EC-Hormones case, the panel took into account several factors determining whether a sanitary measure contravenes the SPS Agreement. First, the panel interpreted that the SPS measures be grounded on international standards. Second, the panel concluded that the EC measure violated the SPS provisions because it was not based on a risk assessment. Third, the panel assumed that the only factors pertinent to the determination of what was an arbitrary or unjustifiable distinction in levels of protection were ‘scientific’ factors.

The use of hormones in beef cattle.

The fact is that estrogens are present in many sorts of food, particularly phyto or plant estrogens. The main reason for giving cows hormones is to redistribute muscle versus fat. Thus, until the global scientific community finds the risk for consumers in giving cows hormones, the hormones should be given as justifiable.

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