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Consumer rep. needed to GE food meeting

March 2, 2000

Consumer rep. needed to GE food meeting

Green MP Sue Kedgley is asking the Government to include a consumer representative in the New Zealand delegation to an international meeting on the safety of genetically engineered food.

The Codex Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Food Derived From Biotechnology is scheduled to convene in Japan on March 14 to 17 this year. Ms Kedgley said present safety regimes to test the safety of genetically engineered foods were "woefully inadequate" and should be replaced by rigorous pharmaceutical type safety testing (including long term testing and human clinical trials) that is required for drugs, pesticides and food additives.

"No one is allowed to bring a new drug onto the market without intensive testing (including chronic, long-term testing and premarket human trials) even though only a small percentage of the population may use it," she said. "Yet 18 genetically engineered ingredients (including staples like potatoes, sugar, wheat and corn) have been allowed into our food chain without rigorous safety testing to ensure they are safe to eat, even though all New Zealanders will end up eating them.

"The upcoming conference provides New Zealand with an opportunity to advocate for a far more rigorous precautionary approach in testing for the safety and nutritional aspects of food derived from biotechnology," she said.

Currently the New Zealand delegation consists of:-

S Rajasekar, Codex Co-ordinator and Contact Point for New Zealand, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Graeme King, Senior Scientist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and Dr Bob Boyd, Chief Advisor Safety and Regulation, Ministry of Health.

This meeting is dealing with an issue of significant interest to New Zealand consumers - namely an evaluation of the safety and nutrition aspects of foods derived from biotechnology.

"Given that there is an urgent need to restore consumer confidence in the safety of genetically modified foods we believe it is essential that consumers are represented, and that they be appointed by consumer groups," Ms Kedgley said.

Note: Ms Kedgley is asking a question on this issue in Parliament today (Question 10).

Sue Kedgley MP 025 2709088. Paul Bensemann, Press Secretary 021 214 2665

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