Backdown On New Food Authority
Angered Consumers Challenge Ministers Over Backdown On New Food Authority
Concerned consumers are to urge the Agriculture and Health Ministers to reconsider plans for the new Food safety board, which are viewed as inadequate to protect New Zealand consumers.
The setting up of a new Food safety board under MAF may give consumers of exports some protection but will not represent NZ consumers beneficially, and is a backdown on pre-election promises for a Food Authority which the public could have confidence in. Susie Lees, spokesperson for consumers concerned over GE contamination in food, points to lessons learned in the instigation of an open accountable and independent food agency in the UK a year ago. The UK approach has been "extremely successful" according to their spokesperson Susie Leather interviewed on National Radio yesterday. It appears that the usefulness of this body is partially due to fixed term contracts of members being unrelated to the government of the day and also due to the ability of the board to publish its findings and advice. All its deliberations are open and public, with a question and answer session, which can and has involved public input. Described as an honour to the British people, it is a definite improvement for British consumers and is succeeding in its aim to monitor standards.
"Why has the NZ government not followed this model which democratically represents the people, rather than serving government bureaucrats, commercial agriculture and industry and giving priority to overseas interests. "As ANZFA make amendments that are being discussed in the senate without NZ government input, and whilst the USDA are considered by them as being major stakeholders, we do not see that a board such as this will be representative of the consumer voice." It is noteworthy that the only comments in support for the food Authority plan have come from the Grocery Industry, Federated Farmers, Meat New Zealand and the Seafood Industry Council. The public must question when they will be heard by the government: why are they consistently unheard and left to resort to channels that have to be self-funded, are consistently ignored and marginalised despite the fact that they are representative of the majority of New Zealanders.
"We believe that the government is hiding behind a pretence to be open and accountable and that to be truly accountable should set up a similar agency to the UK model .If the ANZFA amendment is successful in the Australian senate this will become even more important."