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Aussie PM trying to scuttle GE food labelling

New Zealand must not allow itself to be bullied by Australian Prime Minister John Howard over labelling genetically engineered food, the Green Party said today.

"News I have just had from Australia is that the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Howard, is trying to overturn the transtasman health ministers' proposal for full, mandatory labelling of all GE foods," Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said.

The ministers, including New Zealand Health Minister Wyatt Creech, are meeting today in Canberra to decide on a labelling regime.

"It seems Mr Howard is making comments on the basis of an unsubstantiated, secret, KPMG report. This report is in turn based solely on agrifood industry figures that say the labelling, monitoring and testing of GE foods is too expensive," Ms Kedgley said. "New Zealand, today, must resist the pressure and insist on full mandatory labelling of all GE foods, to rebuild public confidence in food regulation. Also, the KPMG disinformation document should be released now so it can be judged in the court of public opinion, not behind closed doors."

Ms Kedgley said the Australian Food and Grocery Council has claimed labelling will cost an incredible $3 billion in year one and $1.5 billion in later years. KPMG reports it has not been able to independently verify these figures. "Consumers will not be fooled by these industry claims," Ms Kedgley said.

"The health ministers' responsibility is to protect consumers' health and safety, not be fooled by industry scare campaigns. In the UK where labelling is now required, the cost is not even an issue according to the London Food Commission and other consumer organisations." Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the fuss by the food industry over "genetically engineered" labels was ridiculous considering there was little problem in listing other product ingredients.

"It would be particularly cowardly if the ministers and our food officials now took heed of the last-ditch spoiling efforts of the Grocery Industry Council which has already distributed pro-genetic engineering pamphlets using the language of Monsanto," Ms Fitzsimons said.


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