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Consumer anger grows at 2-year labels delay push

Press Release 11.10.01

Consumer anger grows as Industry push for 2-year delay on GE food labels.

The already flawed system for GE labelling planned by the Australia and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) is to be further eroded as goods containing GE ingredients, already manufactured, will be given at least another year on the shelves without any labelling.

Anger at the decision is fuelling renewed calls for the government to withdraw from ANZFA as part of its response to the findings of the Royal Commission on GM which had supported ANZFA's efforts to restore consumer choice before the most recent back-down on labelling was revealed.

Public submissions were not called for ANZFA stating that simplified procedures were in order with respect to this amendment. Despite 117 submissions, some from consumer groups representing many thousands of people, opposing this continued abuse of consumer rights, ANZFA have caved in to just 14 food-industry submissions and consumer interests have again been sidelined. Indeed, food manufacturers went further by seeking either an open-ended, or two-year exclusion tolabelling 'stock-in-trade' GE food

"This is an outrageous disregard of consumer choice to avoid GE foods by regulatory agencies and the government. These GE products were introduced during National's term of government in 1997 but continue to enter the food-chain unlabelled to this day despite Labours election promises to require that key research used by ANZFA be independently checked." said Susie Lees of GE Free NZ.

GE field trials and the public funding of GE experiments was also instigated during National's term in office, who said they would 'socialise the risk'.

"This is a subsidy to industry that is counter to civil society's wishes and interests", said Susie

Lees. "The government failed to seek a mandate from the people or to bring in proper labelling to give them any choice. 5713 submissions were made to the Ministry of Health in 1998, the vast majority requesting labelling of all GE ingredients "

The Public Health concerns for the sale of untested and unmonitored GE foods is also growing.

'The C.D.C. [Centres for Disease Control] now says that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the United States as scientists thought just seven years ago..,' Food illness in the US since the widespread introduction of GM foods New York Times, 18 March (5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalisations and 76 million illnesses per annum)

'Disease surveillance and event monitoring procedures will need to be sufficiently robust to deal with the potential emergence of new diseases associated with GM material which will be obscure and difficult to diagnose.' said a British Medical Association statement on GM foods May 1999

"It is our belief that New Zealand should use it's right to opt out of ANZFSC's decisions here, since there continues to be serious environmental, safety, health and cultural concerns surrounding GE foods and their production and use," says Susie Lees." Food safety issues will apparently dominate WTO talks later this year with the EU and Japan urging food safety rules be changed to recognise the dangers of WTO demands on governments to accept unsafe food."

On September 13th, ANZFA' s Managing Director Ian Lindenmayer said the stock-in-trade proposal is not a back door attempt by industry to delay implementation of the GM labelling requirements.

' I have read media reports which accuse industry of leaning on ANZFA to introduce this provision simply to gain a twelve month' s delay in having to identify GM ingredients on food packages. ....the proposal,... developed to address a common problem that can arise when food standards are changed - what to do about food already in the system?'

More information
Susie Lees 03 546 7966
Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370
Jon Muller 04 589 0536
ANZFA 04 473 9942

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