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Labour committed to consumer choice on GM Food

Labour 2000 web site
Labour has repeated its promise that it will, in its first one hundred days of being elected to office, establish a Royal Commission to investigate genetic modification of food.

In a speech prepared for delivery to the Southland Herb Society, Labour Research Science and Technology spokesperson Mark Peck said the Royal Commission will be required to report to the Government within a year, so that any recommendations can be speedily implemented.

"Genetic engineering is an established scientific technique that has been accepted within our community for many years - the insulin we use in New Zealand is genetically engineered.

"Now the technology is being used to alter the most basic of our necessities, food. This raises a raft of issues including allergic reactions, and cultural, religious and ethical issues.

"We have two choices. One is a blanket ban on genetically modified food. The alternative is to continue to investigate the technology, to determine the risks and benefits from the new method of producing foods. We need to choose wisely after considered debate.

"During the Royal Commission of Inquiry, no commercial release of genetically modified organisms will be permitted. Our scientists will be allowed to continue their research, particularly medical research, but under strict containment rules set by the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

"Labour supports ERMA and will give it the ability to commission its own independent research. Similar support will go New Zealand's connection to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority. To beef up our commitment to safe food and a healthy environment we need to provide those agencies that are charged with doing the work, with the tools to do their job.

"Genetically modified foods are already on our supermarket shelves, and Labour believes they should be labelled," Mr Peck said. "That labelling should be informative - a "may contain" label is not sufficient to allow consumers to make an informed choice.

"The food industry should not complain about compliance costs. This necessary discipline on them is vital to the future of their industry. Labelling allows for consumer choice and it is consumers who will ultimately determine the future of the genetic modification of food," Mark Peck said.

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