Sutton Sabotaging New Zealand's Organic Exporters
Green Party Agriculture Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street MP today said he was shocked and disappointed with Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton's comments to international media in which he called into question the safety of organic produce.
Speaking to the BBC World Service Mr Sutton said consumers of organic food were exposed to some danger from natural bio-toxins that were not in conventional produce, and that consumers of organic mushrooms might get e-coli, whereas consumers of mushrooms grown on artificial fertiliser would not.
"Organic farmers who have contacted me about this are absolutely outraged that the Minister responsible for boosting our trade and promoting our agricultural exports is deliberately undermining our organic producers," said Mr Ewen-Street.
"I am astounded that the Minister is using spurious arguments - that naturally produced food which is recognised in global markets as being safe may be harmful to consumers - in comments which discredit our organics industry in the eyes of some of our biggest markets," he said.
Mr Ewen-Street said the Minister's comments raised serious questions about his support for the recommendations of the Primary Production Select Committee which saw a bright future for New Zealand organics.
He said that although the Minister may not have been referring specifically to New Zealand's organic produce, he was being interviewed as a representative and ambassador of New Zealand agriculture and trade.
"At a time when the world cannot get enough food that they know is safe and naturally produced and when our organic exports are growing exponentially I cannot understand what the Minister was trying to achieve with his comments.
"The organics industry is already feeling very nervous about the threat to their livelihoods from the release of genetically engineered organisms, as recommended by the Royal Commission, and the Minister's comments amount to little more than a kick in the guts for organic farmers," said Mr Ewen-Street.
"Why instead didn't the Minister seize the opportunity to boost the profile of our organics industry rather than place doubts in consumers' minds over the safety of our exports?"