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AUS - Benefits Of Biotechnology Highlighted

ARMCANZ meeting, Sydney, 6 August 1999

ARMCANZ 6 August 1999

Benefits Of Biotechnology Highlighted By Agriculture Ministers

The opportunities and challenges of biotechnology and its impact on Australian agriculture were highlighted at a meeting of the Agricultural and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) in Sydney today.

ARMCANZ, the premier forum for Australia's Agriculture Ministers, stated the benefits of biotechnology will be increased productivity of agriculture and the more stable availability of food for the world market. It will provide more reliable supplies of food and also raise the overall quality and choice of products available.

ARMCANZ heard that the Commonwealth would establish the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator to complement Biotechnology Australia and the development of an Agrifood Biotechnology Statement in cooperation with the States.

Ministers agreed to work together to improve the public's knowledge and understanding of the benefits of biotechnology and expressed concern that farmers will need to come to grips with issues such any necessary segregation of genetically modified products both on farm and through storage, handling and distribution systems.

Export meat inspection

ARMCANZ agreed to new export meat inspection arrangements which may involve early partial implementation for the EU market of the National Livestock Identification Scheme and require properties, facilities and abattoirs involved in meat production for the European Union to be registered.

The industry has been pressing for the Scheme's implementation. The new arrangements will deliver benefits across the industry in terms of improved production, certainty of traceback and better management of animal husbandry and processing.

Commonwealth legislation will be used to regulate the system and the States have agreed to administer the Scheme on the Commonwealth's behalf.

Battery cages

ARMCANZ has agreed to undertake a review into layer hen housing, taking into account views of the RSPCA and industry. The review will recommend any changes that may be necessary to current codes covering egg production.

ARMCANZ also agreed in principle to the desirability of a nationally consistent system of truth in labelling of production methods in the egg industry.

Emergency animal disease funding arrangements

The Ministers heard about a number of aspects of the new funding arrangements being developed by the Australian Animal Health Council Ltd (AAHC) in consultation with industry and government. The key aspects of the new arrangements are:

proposed categorisation of 57 nominated emergency animal diseases; proposed industry/government cost sharing arrangements between categories; and triggers for cost sharing start and end dates, including a 24 hour rule on notification to encourage early reporting.

It is recognised that the key to dealing effectively with emergency animal disease outbreaks was a rapid response which needed to be underpinned by predetermined funding arrangements.

Once in place, the new funding framework will provide a more comprehensive funding arrangement for responses to emergency animal diseases and extend the coverage to many more diseases. It will also provide for a partnership between government and industry on these matters.

Anti-Doping Strategy for Sport

The Ministers heard that controls on the illicit supply and use of veterinary anabolic steroids in sport in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be tightened.

The diversion of veterinary drugs has become a significant source of supply for drugs banned in sport. All States are to ensure that the control of these banned drugs was sufficient and adequately enforced.

ARMCANZ noted the objectives of the national sports anti-drugs strategy "Tough on Drugs in Sport - Australia's Anti-Drugs in Sport Strategy 1999-2000 and beyond".

This Strategy was developed by the Australian Sports Drug Agency in response to a call from the Prime Minister to initiate a comprehensive strategy combating drug use in sport.

The Commonwealth has given a commitment under the Strategy to work with States and Territories to review the regulation of veterinary drugs as it relates to their supply, storage and sale with a view to tightening control.

Land transport of cattle

The Ministers endorsed a model code of practice for the land transport of cattle intended as a guide for people who are involved in transporting cattle by road and rail to better ensure the welfare of the animals.

It was developed by the Animal Welfare Committee of Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management which consulted with State, Territory and Federal Departments with responsibility for agriculture and/or animal welfare, the CSIRO, the dairy and beef cattle industries, the cattle transport industry, the live cattle export industry and animal welfare groups.

The code is further evidence of industry, government and the community working together to improve the welfare of animals used in agriculture in Australia.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Conference

ARMCANZ also discussed food quality and international trade issues likely to arise during a UN conference being held in Melbourne in October.

Australia is a leader in food quality and safety technology, committed to improving the international trade environment and will play a key role at the conference.

The conference will highlight the importance of trade issues in the lead-up to new agriculture negotiations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at the end of this year. Further liberalisation of the food trade will be a critical part of these negotiations for Australia.

Jointly hosted by the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, the conference is being organised by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization and is called International Food Trade Beyond 2000: Science Based Decisions, Harmonization, Equivalence and Mutual Recognition.

It will consider the quality and safety implications of recent developments in food technology, environmental concerns, cultural and consumer issues and will also help developing countries meet their international obligations on food standards.

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