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Govt Hands Control Of Food Standards To Australia

18th April 2002

Government Hands Control Of Food Standards To Australia On A Plate

Government hands control of food standards to Australia on a plate. Eroded standards of Australian New Zealand Joint Food Standards Treaty threaten New Zealand’s sovereignty and control of health and safety of food.

GE Free New Zealand will voice public concern to a select committee today over government intent to hand control of food standards to Australian politicians, bureaucrats corporations and regulatory agencies.

“These amendments, established under Australian law, will remove New Zealand rights to opt out of decisions made about our food except under extreme circumstances. This is unacceptable! How does the government intend to safeguard the nation’s food supply from undesirable social, cultural and environmental effects if Australia has the majority vote?” said a representative from GE Free NZ.

A lack of publicity and consultation with the wider community is apparent despite considerable public interest in health and safety of imported foods. Over 5000 people made submissions on GE foods to a Ministry of Health survey in 1999.

”Many people don't want to eat GE foods and are in favour of a ban on their importation, until proper testing is carried out to identify toxins, allergens and any long-term problems from their consumption. Issues such as GE, novel foods and irradiation, and public health risks from inadequate regulation of the food /medicine interface, should not be left to Australia.”

Intent on maximising profit margins the food industry routinely lowers standards by lobbying government and regulatory bodies. The food standards are voted on by both a board and a ministerial council, previously made up of health ministers from Australian states and New Zealand. This will now comprise of ministers with agriculture, free trade or economic interests, thus health and safety issues may be compromised by other agendas. Biotech companies and food manufacturers will be asked to put up names for the board. The public perspective, their consumer rights and health undefended, the primary concerns of food safety and public health will be compromised.

Alongside an opportunity to opt out of standards for biosecurity or safety reasons, any New Zealand position should have to include considerations of our unique cultural concerns with particular reference to the Treaty of Waitangi. Safety issues are intended to be clarified later, GE Free New Zealand, however, believe that this should be settled prior to this amendment being passed and a proviso made to ensure that biosecurity, public health and Treaty issues can remain a sovereign decision.


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