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Government undermines power of Brand New Zealand

Government undermines power of Brand New Zealand by anti-labelling stance

Reports that the government is actively opposing the introduction of county-of-origin labelling is an alarming sign of government mis-management of the New Zealand Brand.

Minister Annette King has broken with Australia and voted against mandatory country-of-origin labeling which will not only deny people knowing where their food comes from, but undermines the potential for New Zealand produce to be marketed as such at home and abroad.

"The Prime Minister has described herself as the Brand Manager for New Zealand, but her assistants now seem determined to damage our Brand," says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

The government's opposition to country-of-origin labeling comes as just one in a series of statements and policy-decisions by Ministers that are tangible threats to our economy and exports.

The importation and use of GM crops as animal feed was recently highlighted as a yawning gap in biosecurity and food-health regulations. In Europe there are plans to require all produce from animals given GE feed to be labelled as such, yet the issue has fallen off the New Zealand government's agenda in their rush to support the biotech industry.

Another recent example of a government Minister undermining Brand New Zealand is the statement that " New Zealand is not GE-Free now" made by Marian Hobbs in an attempt to justify the commercial release of GM organisms from October.

The impression left by such a statement is to signal to world markets the opposite of the actual status of products from New Zealand. In fact the Ministry for the Envrionment's own publications clearly affirm that " all fruit and vegetables grown in New Zealand are GE-free.

"Why wouldn't you want people here and overseas to know that? And why would you go out of your way to suggest the opposite?" asks Mr Carapiet.

"The New Zealand government seem to believe people should not be told where food comes from so that they cannot make a choice. That is very odd thinking for a country which exports food and has a world-class image for quality," says Mr Carapiet.

" Any expert in brand marketing, including companies like Saatchis who developed the '100% Pure NZ' camapign will tell you that having the words " New Zealand" on a product adds real value," says Mr Carapiet.

"We have a Brand worth defending, yet the government's decision to oppose country-of-origin labelling limits that oppportunity, and their other decisions, including the release of GM organisms are destined to damage that Brand."

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