Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

December 7 a dim day for GE labelling

FEATURE ARTICLE: December 7 a dim day for GE labelling

Green MP Sue Kedgley says the introduction of a GE labelling system on December 7 will bring more confusion not clarity for consumers. Has the Naked Chef bought into a Kiwi battle with his promotion of Pam’s - a supermarket brand which is not GE Free?


Dicing, chopping, talking faster than any other chef around - the Naked Chef can now be seen on TV ads here promoting the brand name Pam’s. Employing one of the most high profile chefs in the world to give his seal of approval to a brand was a public relations coup for Pam’s.

But as one of the few supermarket brands which says it is happy to keep using genetically engineered ingredients in New Zealand food, it’s possible that the Naked Chef may have bought himself a battle with Kiwi consumers.

Foodstuffs, the supermarket chain which supply Pak ‘n’ Save, New World and Four Square with their Pam’s brand, have acknowledged that their brand contains some genetically engineered ingredients.

Foodstuff’s retail operations general manager, Graham Fabian told The Herald newspaper on November 21 that anecdotal evidence showed consumers were relaxed about genetically engineered food and would not refuse to eat it.

“We are not going to go out of our way to source products which are [GE]-Free,” he said.

Consequently, when the long awaited new labelling regime is introduced on December 7, Foodstuffs will keep food containing genetically engineered ingredients on its shelves, including the Pam’s range.



The real tragedy is that this new regime will not require Foodstuffs to label the majority of those products, There are so many loopholes in the labelling regime that only a handful of genetically engineered foods like soy flour and soy protein and single protein foods like tofu, and soymilk, will need to carry a definitive label.

Other ingredients like highly refined soy, cottonseed, canola oils and fats, sugars such as fructose, sucrose found in a vast array of foods, and corn or maize starches from genetically engineered plants won’t have to be labelled as containing genetically engineered ingredients.

Nor will processing aids such as the genetically engineered rennet that is used in making some vegetarian cheeses, the flour improving enzyme amylase which is used in many breads and baked goods. Nor will genetically engineered flavourings and colourings that are used in a wide variety of processed foods, or additives such as soy lecithin which is founds in thousands of baked goods, confectionary and bread. Meat from animals fed on genetically engineered feed will also not need to be labelled.

Nothing bought from a deli, bakery, take-away or restaurant has to be labelled (and that’s about 60 per cent of the food we eat).

To complicate and delay things further, any genetically engineered food packaged before December 7 will be able to stay on the shelves without a label for another whole year. And food which has up to one per cent of unintended GE contamination won’t have to be labelled either, so unless this is stringently monitored this could amount of yet another loophole for manufacturers and retailers.

The new labelling regime is, in short, a Clayton’s labelling system that won’t give consumers the information they need to choose whether they want to eat genetically engineered food or not.

But what the regime has done is provide the impetus for many companies to go further than the labelling regime requires and voluntarily source all non-GE ingredients.

Companies that have gone further than the labelling regime requires, and are working towards taking all genetically engineered foods and ingredients out of their products or their own brands include Sanitarium, TipTop, Heinz-Watties, Tegel, Cadbury’s, Cerebros, Greggs, Kellogs, Hubbards, Whittakers, NZ Dairy Foods, Unilever, Ryvita, Leggos and Chelsea.

Two of the country’s major supermarket chains, Woolworths (Woolworths, Price Chopper and Big Fresh) and Progressive (Countdown and Foodtown) have also committed to making their own brands GE-Free.

There will still be other brands in their supermarkets with genetically engineered ingredients (many of which will remain unlabelled), but at least consumers can buy one of their ‘own brand’ products, and know it will be genuinely GE-Free.

Campaigners always hoped this labelling regime would spur companies to respond to consumer demand and remove all genetically engineered ingredients from their products, as happened in the UK, when a similar labelling regime was introduced.

All major British supermarkets went further than the labelling regime required and guaranteed that all brands on their shelves would be GE-free. If New Zealand consumers support brands which have made the effort to go completely GE-free, and boycott companies that haven’t, we will continue to turn the tables here.

While hunting around for brands which are genuinely GE-free, consumers should remember that all organic food is, and always has been, GE-free. Some bakeries, such as Pandoro’s, and cafes such as the Real Earth Organic Café in Wellington, have already declared themselves GE-free, and more are likely to do so as consumer pressure grows.

By law, although bakeries, restaurants, delis and take-aways do not need to label GE food, they have to be ready to answer questions from consumers about whether they use genetically engineered ingredients or not.

In short, the new labelling system is messy, complicated and confusing – a far cry from the Labour Government’s pre-election promise, to label all foods derived from genetically modified organisms.

In the absence of a simple, clear label that tells us whether the food we are buying contains any genetically engineered ingredients or not, consumers will have to educate themselves, work out which brands have committed to sourcing GE-free food, and which brands haven’t, and buy accordingly.

But consumers can take heart from the number of companies which have already decided that going GE-free is the way to keep customer loyalty. If consumers continue to support GE-free brands and products, eventually all supermarkets and manufacturers will recognise that they have no option but to also go GE-free.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Friday: National Remembrance Service

A National Remembrance Service for the victims of the Christchurch mosques terrorist attack, and all those affected by it, will be held at 10am on Friday 29 March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced. More>>

Ban On Military Style Semi-Automatics And Assault Rifles
Military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned in New Zealand under stronger new gun laws... Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines. “An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in, and Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme...All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned." More>>

RNZ Report: No Mention Of Right-Wing Threat In 10 Years Of GCSB/SIS Docs
There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of public documents from the Security Intelligence Service or the GCSB. More>>

Two Minute Silence Friday: Auckland Mosques Opening Their Doors To All
Mosques in the four corners of Auckland will open their doors on Friday night for people of all faiths to gather in remembrance of the 50 lives lost in the Christchurch shootings. More>>

SCOOP COVERAGE: CHRISTCHURCH MOSQUES TERROR ATTACK
For the Latest: Scoop Search - Christchurch
 

Gordon Campbell: On The School Climate Strike

Locally, the school strike has won a ton of support for bringing climate change to the fore. Yet the strikers don't want mere expressions of support. They want action. More>>

ALSO:

"Grabbed And Struck In The Face": Greens Co-Leader Attacked While Walking To Work

Green Party co-leader James Shaw was the victim of an unprovoked attack when he was walking to work in Wellington. More>>

ALSO:

████████ ████ ███: Latest OIA Statistics Released

The latest statistics cover 110 agencies that collectively completed 18,106 official information requests between July and December 2018, a 16.4% increase on the 15,551 requests for the previous six months. More>>

ALSO:

'Hit And Run' Inquiry: New Legal Action Over Secrecy

The lawyer representing the Afghan villagers in the inquiry into Operation Burnham has launched legal proceedings calling for a judicial review in the investigation. More>>

ALSO:

From Hydro Plan To...: Mokihinui River Land To Join Kahurangi National Park

A total of 64,400 hectares of conservation land in the Mokihinui River catchment on the West Coast north of Westport, including 15 km of riverbed, is being added to Kahurangi National Park. “Adding this area, roughly half the size of Auckland City, to Kahurangi is the largest addition of land to an existing national park in New Zealand’s history,” Eugenie Sage said. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels