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The "End Of Consumer Choice" Over GE

International Food-Agency Program Signals The "End Of Consumer Choice". Government Weakness Risks Loss Of National Sovereignty And Backdown On Promise To Label GE Food.

The Government's promise to allow consumer choice by requiring labelling of GM food may be meaningless if plans before the global food authority go ahead. Codex Alimentarius, the bureaucracy with control of world food standards is asking for global public participation in its work, but its proposals may already spell doom for basic consumer rights.

Having for years seemingly ignored the consumer voice Codex has now asked for public submissions on its plans by May 13th. Ironically this deadline is the anniversary date of supermarket protests in New Zealand, in which stores were raided by consumers demanding GE labelling to allow consumers to choose. Hundreds took part and three people were arrested .

"Our food standards are fast being eroded and there will be bigger protests if it continues" said Jon Carapiet a consumer advocate for GE-Free NZ. "The labelling of GE products will become voluntary if those countries like the US, get their way in Codex
negotiations, yet still no long term testing of GE foods has taken place".

Established by the FAO and WHO in 1962, so far only governments have had a say in its running. Multinational giants, given the status of countries, have also been allowed huge input into food standard rulings and pressured small nations to support their profiteering demands.

"Public involvement is essential to prevent this independent review being highjacked by
multinationals." said Susie Lees from GE-Free NZ , 'but there are fears the public will be reluctant to submit comments, having been previously ignored by bodies like ANZFA and in the Royal Commission' on GM.'
" World standards for labelling of food and for food safety often over-ride national ones because the WTO uses Codex standards in trade negotiations",said Susie.

Conflicts between consumer protection and world trade are resulting as agricultural practices descend to unsafe levels. With new concerns about GE food continuing to be raised around the world and staple crops becoming contaminated by GE.

Current Codex plans being considered relate to rules on traceability, country of origin labelling, and organic standards all being worked through apparently to make it easier to introduce GE crops.

" We are looking at a scenario where there is no longer any right to choose. This is the end of traditional consumer-marketing ; when people are forced to accept contamination of all food by GE constructs", said Mr Carapiet.

" The Mexican government announced at the Hague on April 18th that this has already happened with Maize. We want renewed promises from the government that they
will not allow their own weakness and trade-agenda to result in the ultimate sacrifice of New Zealander's basic rights".

Submissions can be made up to May 13th to the WHO Department of Budget and Management Reform, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland; fax: +41 22 791 4807; email:
[codexreview@who.int. ] More information at http://www.who.int/fsf,

ENDS
Media contact Jon - 09 815 3370
Susie - 03 546 7966


Background info:-

9 APRIL 2002--INDEPENDENT EVALUATION OF THE CODEX ALIMENTARIUS AND OTHER
FAO-WHO WORK
ON FOOD STANDARDS

INFORMATION NOTE AND INFORMAL PUBLIC CALL FOR COMMENTS
The Codex Alimentarius Commission was established by FAO and WHO in 1962
to implement the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The Programme's
importance has gradually shifted from providing a basis for national
standards to providing the point of reference in standards, guidelines
and codes of practice for international trade.
FAO and WHO have now called for an in-depth independent evaluation of
the work of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, including the
Codex Alimentarius Commission, in order to meet more effectively the
needs of the world's people and improve the systems to protect and
promote the global food supply for both developing and developed
countries. The terms of reference for the evaluation can be found on
WHO's web site at: http://www.who.int/fsf, together with other relevant
background information.
This evaluation, launched in March 2002 and due to be completed in early
2003, will examine the respective requirements of producers, industry,
traders, consumers and regulators and provide recommendations and
considerations for the future on the relevance of standards or
alternative approaches in meeting the overall objectives in consumer
protection (in particular for health risks) and in ensuring fair
practices for food trade, including the needs of both developed and
developing countries.
The evaluation will be carried out by an independent Evaluation Team and
an Expert Panel. The two groups will work closely together and produce
reports by November this year, following the widest possible
consultation with member countries of FAO and WHO and other stakeholders.
In addition to a formal questionnaire on key issues to Member States and
stakeholders through official channels (which will be distributed in May
2002), the consultation process will involve different vehicles,
including country visits, in-depth interviews, literature reviews,
content analysis, etc.
One element of this process is to invite informal comments from the
global public and all potentially interested parties, in an attempt to
include the broadest possible range of relevant opinions and issues. All
comments thus received will be forwarded to the Evaluation Team and
Expert Panel for their consideration as part of responses obtained
through the various methods. All information will be held confidentially
and no individual names will be mentioned in any reports.
Interested stakeholders and the public are invited to send their
comments by 13 May 2002 to the WHO Department of Budget and Management
Reform, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland; fax: +41 22 791 4807; email:
[codexreview@who.int. ]
Issues for comment could include following aspects:
(1) The relevance and adequacy of Codex and other food standards as a
basis for consumer health protection, trade and economic development,
including
. the relevance and adequacy of standards as instruments for preventing
foodborne diseases and other health risks, for food safety risk
management and consumer protection, and for trade and economic
development and production practice;
. the expectations as to standards in imports and exports and for
domestic trade, particularly as regards the validity and acceptability
of standards;
(2) The adequacy of governance structures and decision-making processes
in Codex and other food standard work, including
. the expectation as to the institutional mechanisms for standard
setting, including the structure and procedures of the Codex
Alimentarius Commission and its subsidiary bodies;
. the technical and administrative support given to the work of the
Commission by FAO and WHO, including secretariat and expert committees,
possibilities and limitations for participation in the decision making
processes, and direct and indirect costs and ways of covering them;
(3) The efficiency and transparency of the Codex process, including the
independence of Codex bodies and of scientific advice given to Codex and
avoidance of conflict of interest;
(4) Opportunities to participate in the Codex process, including
. the particular interests of developing countries as regards
participation in the standards setting process and assistance to them in
implementing standards;
. the expectation of producers, industry and civil society and their
likely impact on international standards;
. mobilization of adequate support for developing country capacity
building and their participation in the standard setting processes; and
(5) Implications for future international systems of food safety and
food standards developments relative to public health, food trade and
economic development in a broad sense, including
. advantages of potentially quite different approaches to those at
present in place for consumer protection (especially for health) and
economic development through clarity in international and domestic trade
as well as for standard setting at international and domestic levels;
. the implications for developing countries, if food standards setting
for international trade were allowed to become the preserve of the
developed countries and main trading nations.

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