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New Food Bill Presents a Serious Threat to Maori Food Sovere

New Food Bill Presents a Serious Threat to Maori Food Sovereignty

A new piece of legislation known as the ‘Food Bill’ currently making its way through parliament may have serious ramifications for food security and sovereignty for Māori.

"This Bill is another example of the Crown eroding Māori rights and extending its reach of ownership into the fundamentals of life, that being food and seed”, says Dr Jessica Hutchings (Te Waka Kai Ora Hua ParakoreHua Parakore producer and academic).

Te Waka Kai Ora (the National Māori Organics Authority) fundamentally opposes any move which affects the self-sustaining right of indigenous communities to produce, share, and trade food and seed.

The Food Bill has been presented as an amendment to the current ‘out-dated’ Food Act (1981) with a purpose to increase food safety. However Te Waka Kai Ora believe that the law change will increase costs, bureaucracy and government control over our food taonga (treasures) and will ultimately undermine our tino rangatiratanga (self-determination).

In response to the uproar the Bill has created around capturing seed propagation, the NZ Food Safety Authority has recommended an alteration to the definition of ‘food’ to ensure propagation (collecting and re-sowing of seed) is kept outside its parameters. The NZFSA also states that the Food Bill gives the government the ability to exempt certain activities.

However TWKO believes the definitions around ‘food’ and ‘selling’ remain unacceptably vague, and the Bill still involves a significant move by government to further regulate and control our food systems. The Bill is also a result of New Zealand’s need to comply with World Trade Organisation agreements. TWKO has concerns around the wider context of globalisation, and opening the door to the agendas of multinational food corporations which use Genetically Engineered seed and aggressive lobbying tactics to undermine local, GE free food systems.

Furthermore, the move is irresponsible in light of the obesity and diabetes epidemic facing Māori. The Food Bill will add further costs to food production system and may have flow on effects to the availability and price of healthy kai, and therefore health outcomes for Māori. There are also concerns around the inclusion of rongoa (medicines) within the definition of food, and this is of significant concern to the many Māori practitioners and communities that use natural remedies.

“Seed is sacred and it is to be nurtured, cared for, and then passed to future generations to ensure the survival of communities, we must be responsible for saving and caring for our seeds and as indigenous peoples this is our role”, concludes Dr Hutchings.


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