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 June 2005 Letters to the Editor

The Openness Debate: ASTM International/ISO

In the March 2005 issue of SN, ASTM President Jim Thomas made a strong point on harmonization, referring to the World Trade Organization and ISO. Contrary to his observation on the “international consensus approach that is used by ASTM International and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO),” I find these are at variance, essentially.

The incomparable advantage of ASTM is the real consensus procedure where everybody interested is involved. ASTM relies on sound science and facts. To the contrary, ISO is not working on “consensus” but through diplomatic channels and compromises, without any democratic control, but through representatives from standards institutes appointed to ISO by governments. This implies that national experts are under the close control of some “head of delegation.”

In practice, as a member of Subcommittee E10.01 on Dosimetry for Radiation Processing, I have worked on many of the ASTM standards on radiation dosimetry. However, in my country, Germany, my participation in transferring the respective ASTM standards to the ISO format was formally forestalled. Also, as a member of Subcommittee E10.06 on Food Irradiation Processing and Packaging, I have worked on several ASTM standards on food irradiation. Again, in Germany my participation in the “new work” within ISO of deriving an ISO code of practice for radiation processing of food from an already existing Codex Alimentarius Code of Practice was formally blocked. In both cases, Germany, that is, its standards institute Deutsches Institut für Normung, denied any participation in the respective ISO working groups and, in this same way, excluded any German scientist and expert from participation.

The same in principle applies to other countries.

In my opinion, ASTM is the only real “international” body where scientists, engineers, other experts, or any interested person can cooperate in developing standards.

My two examples can be easily explained by the opposition of the German government and authorities to the radiation processing of food, and this opposition includes denying rationales and facts and blocking science and research, and instead relying on prejudice and politics.

I am proud of being a member of ASTM and of having so many international friends through the subcommittees; the same is not possible under ISO, quite unfortunately.

Dieter A.E. Ehlermann

A Useful Issue

I was very impressed with the April issue of Standardization News. The feature articles in this issue were very well written and I found them very relevant to me. They gave me a good understanding of the breadth of the organization, the tools available to me as a committee chairman, and the direction/focus of the organization.

Earl Lawrence
Chairman, Committee F37 on Light Sport Aircraft
Member, ASTM Board of Directors

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