UNECE through its Working Party on Agricultural Quality Standards (WP.7) and its specialized sections, develops internationally agreed commercial quality standards for agricultural produce, helps with their interpretation and promotes their practical application. The standards are based on existing national standards and industry and trade practices. They are reviewed and amended on a regular basis and new standards are developed as required. In this process, UNECE cooperates with the secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ensure that the standard-setting process is consistent with WTO rules, as well as with standard-setting bodies, such as the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission to avoid duplication of work and divergence in standards.
UNECE harmonizes the application of its standards internationally by developing and disseminating interpretative and explanatory material also in collaboration with the OECD Scheme for the Application of International Standards for Fruit and Vegetables which prepares explanatory brochures to interpret UNECE Standards. In addition, UNECE defines and promotes uniform quality-control procedures and the use of the model quality-conformity certificates by cooperating with governmental, intergovernmental and other organizations implementing standards to achieve uniformity of inspection methods and comparability of results.
UNECE regularly organizes seminars, workshops and training courses for governments and the private sector to help them develop standards and establish legal and technical infrastructure for their application in practice. In view of the global character of commercial agricultural quality standards, any member of the United Nations or of one of its specialized agencies can participate, on an equal footing, in the activities of the Working Party on Agricultural Quality Standards.
Today, close to 100 standards have been adopted for the purpose of facilitating international trade. The Geneva Protocol on Standardization of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables and Dry and Dried Fruit sets the basis for this work. UNECE’s international commercial quality standards cover a wide range of perishable products, including fresh fruit and vegetables, dry and dried produce, seed potatoes, eggs and egg products, meat and cut flowers.