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GE labelling decision due out today


24 October 2001

Media advisory

GE labelling decision due out today

A decision by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority on whether genetically engineered foods can remain unlabelled on New Zealand shelves is being made today.

Health Ministers from Australia and New Zealand are having a telephone conference to decide whether to agree to an ANZFA proposal to allow genetically engineered food purchased prior to December 7 2001 to remain unlabelled for a further 12 months.

New Zealand's new GE labelling regime comes into effect on December 7.

Backgrounder follows.


Backgrounder on proposed ANZFA labelling loophole

New Zealand consumers have been campaigning for years for the basic right to know whether there are genetically engineered ingredients in the food they eat.

After years of considering the issue, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority finally agreed, 18 months ago, to introduce a rather weak labelling regime for genetically engineered foods. There are a number of exemptions to this regime.

Food manufacturers were given 18 months to comply with the new labelling regime, which was formally Gazetted 12 months ago.

The new labelling regime is set to start on December 7.

Then out of the blue, six weeks ago ANZFA released a proposal, under urgency, to allow any food that has been manufactured, packaged, imported into New Zealand - or even purchased for import into New Zealand - prior to 7 Dec, to be exempt from the new GE labelling laws and to remain unlabelled on supermarket shelves for a further 12 months.



The effect of this last minute proposal will be to delay by a further 12 months an already long overdue GE labelling regime. It will confuse enforcement of the new regime by allowing labelled and unlabelled stock to be found on shelves side by side.

It is unclear from the proposal whether there will be any monitoring mechanism at all to decide whether unlabelled GE products were purchased prior to or after 7 December, and whether they are therefore eligible for exemptions.

After a very short three week consultation period, ANZFA has recommended to the Ministers of Australia and New Zealand, meeting in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council, that they agree to the exemption.

The Greens have been campaigning against this loophole.

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