Do Standards Define Us, or Do We Define Standards

Do Standards Define Us, or Do We Define Standards

Looking at the world today one would be dismissive to see how it has changed and to what extent human activities and our misgivings has led us to this point. We stand at the crossroad where our next move will determine the fate of Earth and our lives. Governed by rules and regulations, law and order, derived from scientific evidence, based on universal standards that we live by and implement, is the only option, direction one should take in order to ensure sustainability and continuity of a better life. The question that I ask here, and I would like to write about is whether these standards define us or do we define the standards.

If I may use a simple example to illustrate my point – and that is traffic lights at an intersection. Standards suggests that one must stop when the light is red and proceed (albeit cautiously) when the light turns green. In between we have an amber light that either prepares us to stop or to proceed, depending upon the preceding light colour.  In terms of compliance, standards are voluntary, which crudely translated means that one is not obligated to stop at a red light. However, the traffic department of each country has developed rules and regulations, based on the standard, that are mandatory and are enforced by the competent authority – in the case the police department. Upon violation of this rule/regulation and submission of proof of non-compliance the person(s) are fined in accordance to that country’s laws. This reflects on human behaviour particularly our value for human life as violating such rules/regulations may lead to irrepairable damages, even loss of life. This then links well to whether the standard defines us or vice-versa.

The same holds true when it comes to trade facilitation and market requirements. World trade and compliance requirements that govern trade are now universal and based on standards and the regulations derived thereof. Today global trade is governed by compliance to standards that ensures saving the Earth, consumer safety and sustainability.

The theme of World Standards Day 2020 emphasises this very same idea and how standards can be used to protect our planet and at the same time ensure sustainable development. Of course it is true the standards, albeit voluntary when it comes to compliance, however, it lays the foundation for governments and their institutions/regulatory bodies, responsible for area covered by the standard to develop the technical regulations which become mandatory and are enforced by the rule of law based on legislation.

Linked to the WSD 2020, the MARKUP project is supporting specific interventions that will lead to Good Agriculture Practice – with a focus on integrated pest management (replacing pesticides with biological controls); water management and judicial use of fertilizer – use organic fertilizer – such as compost, along specific value chains. Composting in farming – reduces/captures carbon dioxide and enriches the soil. For the private sector, food business operators, MARKUP will provide the requisite technical assistant to address the needs for implementing and enforcing standards such as FSSC22000, HACCP, Good Hygiene Practice (GHP) to ensure ‘safe food for all’.

To go full circle, one can clearly extrapolate that Standards define who we are or at least who we would like to be when it comes to saving lives, saving our Earth and ensuring sustainability to leave behind better, cleaner world rich in biodiversity for future generations.

By: Ali Abbas Qazilbash (PhD)
International Expert
TBT & SPS Measures, Food Safety & Trade Development