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Te Ururoa Flavell MP:Speech

Consumers Right to Know (Food Information) Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell MP:Speech

Tena no tatou katoa.

Over half a century ago, there was a bilingual quarterly publication entitled Te Ao Hou, which had as its purpose the provision of “'interesting and informative reading for Maori homes ….. like a marae on paper, where all questions of interest to the Maori can be discussed'.

I turn to Te Ao Hou in terms of trying to find some way forward with this particular Bill, the Consumers right to Know (Food Information) Bill, at this point in time - in particular around the views that Maori people had about health.

In that source, I found the following quote:

“The traditional foods of the Maori people built splendid men and fine looking, strong women and all of these foods were gathered from New Zealand's soil or waters.

With the coming of the pakeha and his food, however, the Maori people are forgetting some of their own foods and adopting more and more of the pakeha foods.

Pakeha food such as meat, bread and tea has come and come to stay, but do not neglect your own excellent foods, your puha, your fish and your kumaras”.

There is some sound advice in there.

The excellent foods of tangata whenua, our puha, our fish and our kumara, may well have stood us in good stead in a world which is rapidly being spoiled by food that is infected with pesticide, with heavy metal, industrial chemicals, or other contaminants.

The food industry in Aotearoa, has been grappling with the sweeping tidal wave of genetic modification over the last decade.

Over these last ten years, food manufacturers have been requesting information about the levels of GM-derived ingredients in food products and animal feed products.

They also require the country of origins of certain foods to be on labels at the point of time.

Back in 1952, the origins were indisputable.

Octopus, kina, rock oysters, koura (crayfish), kuku, paua, pipi, and toheroa,-where else would one come across those but in the foreshore and seabeds of this fine land?

Hapuku, tarakihi, snapper, kahawai, mango, and patiki, …there was no risk then of purchasing such foods with ‘Made in Taiwan’ emblazoned on their wrappings.

It is from the base of that pure, healthy kai, that the Maori Party is delighted to support Sue Kedgley in a bill very dear to our heart (and our puku). We believe that all consumers, tangata whenua and tangata tauiwi alike, have the right to make meaningful decisions about the kai they purchase.

And they can do so, through having sufficient accurate and detailed information on all labels or at the point of sale.

We support the right for consumers to know the composition of all foods derived from gene technology - not just those with detectable levels of GM protein or DNA remaining after processing.

We support the right for consumers to know whether eggs are free-range, barn-produced or from caged hens. In this so-called information rich world, mandatory labelling on egg packages, on seafoods, whether wild-caught or farmed, is surely for the best of all consumers.

Accurate, truthful and meaningful food labelling will also enable us to be compliant with national and international food standards.

Of course, we acknowledge that it will require more work to ensure manufacturers follow rigorous standards in the way in which they source, develop and manufacture food products.

And this will inevitably bring increased costs to manufacturers - which no doubt will flow on to consumers.

But how much is the human life worth?

The Maori Party will always vote, in balance, for human life over and above issues of fiscal cost. We understand the risks of particular chemical contaminants arising from the production processes of some nations, or indeed from post harvest or fumigation treatments.

This House might not be aware of recent research from Otago University which revealed that several traditional Maori food plants are rich potential sources of cancer-fighting antioxidants.

A study of 17 native plant species it found that some native plants have an extraordinary potential for scavenging free radicals which are implicated in cancer, heart disease and neuro-degenerative conditions.

The study provides some exciting insights into perhaps why pre-European Maori appeared to have low levels of non-infectious diseases.

The Maori Party believes that consumers have the right to know the derivation of genetically modified ingredients in food products and the right to know the life-enhancing potential that is evident in puha, in rewa rewa, in titoki, and swamp maire.

We support the Bill, in the interests of a future GE-free Aotearoa.


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