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Aussies know what they're eating NZers don't

Aussies can find out what they're eating, but NZers can't

The Green Party is calling on the Government to change the rules governing Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) so that New Zealanders have the same access rights as Australians when it comes to information on decisions about the food we eat.

"FSANZ is refusing requests from New Zealanders under our Official Information Act because it does not apply in Australia," Green Party Safe Food Spokesperson Ms Kedgley said, "at the same time New Zealanders' requests under the equivalent Australian law are being refused because they do not come from an Australian address."

"It is an outrageous situation when New Zealanders cannot access information about decisions which affect the food we eat, but Australians can. It means that once again New Zealanders are being kept in the dark about decisions over our food.

"For years the Government has claimed that FSANZ is a joint Australia New Zealand body and that New Zealand has not given away its sovereignty by joining the agency. This revelation gives the lie to that and demonstrates unequivocally that the body that makes decisions about our food is an Australian government department, bound by Australian rules."

FSANZ has previously refused Official Information requests because it says it is an Australian government department and is bound only by the Australian Freedom of Information Act 1982. So GE-Free NZ recently tried to obtain the safety data and assessments on genetically engineered Bt10 corn under that law. After five letters, the group's application was refused because Section 15 of the Australian code states information can only be released to someone applying from an Australian address.

Bt10 has not been approved for use in food in New Zealand, Australia or Europe, but has contaminated corn imported into Europe from the US. New Zealand still has not carried out any sampling to see whether this illegal contaminant is in our food too.

FSANZ's website states that its decisions are "open and accountable", but this puts the lie to that, Ms Kedgley says. "It is fundamental of democracy that we can access the information upon which decisions that affect us are made."

Ms Kedgley has discovered that even the handful of staff working in FSANZ's tiny New Zealand office are employed as Australian public servants, even if they are New Zealanders, and are therefore not subject to any New Zealand laws relating to such things as privacy and human rights.

"We call on the Government to demand from FSANZ that New Zealanders are able to access information they hold on food that is sold here. This issue needs to be rectified immediately," Ms Kedgley said.

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