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Commission fails to address GE Food Safety issues

30 July 2001

Commission fails to address GE Food Safety issues

Green Party MP and Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley today said she was deeply disappointed that the Royal Commission has not made any recommendations that would address consumer concerns about the safety of GE food or ensure New Zealanders can avoid eating GE food if they want to.

Ms Kedgley said the Commission has sidestepped key issues such as the lack of any independent or long-term testing of genetically engineered foods in our food supply, and have put short-term economic considerations ahead of long-term health, safety and consumer choice issues.

"The Commission says 'banning GE foods would compromise freedom of consumer choice' but then proceeds to compromise consumers' freedom of choice to avoid GE foods by saying that mandatory labelling would be too 'costly and complex to administer'," she said.

"The Commissioners acknowledge the lack of comprehensive labelling of GE foods was a key concern of submitters, but fail to recommend mandatory labelling to meet these concerns, or even extending labelling to cover take-away foods, foods sold at point of sale, or to close any other loop-holes in the proposed labelling scheme because it would be expensive."

The Commission proposes the establishment of a voluntary GE free label for food that is 100 per cent GE Free, but has no recommendations as to how such a label could be administered, policed, or protected against fraudulent use, Ms Kedgley said.

"The Commission fails to take a precautionary approach to GE foods, and instead reaches the simplistic conclusion that they consider it 'unlikely' that genetically engineered foods that have been assessed by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority 'will have harmful effects'," she said.

The Commission does suggest random testing of GE foods to ensure compliance with standards, and regular testing to ensure there are no unauthorised GE ingredients in our food as part of Total Diet surveys.

"The problem is that these Total Diet Surveys are only held infrequently - about every four to six years. Such infrequent testing or monitoring is totally unsatisfactory and will do nothing to reassure consumers that unsafe, unauthorised, illegal GE food is not being sold in New Zealand," she said.

The Commission has not proposed any measures or regulations to cover GE crops that are fed to animals.

"Not only does the Commission expect that more and more GE food will be imported, but it proposes that we should proceed to plant GE crops here so that even New Zealand grown food will not be guaranteed as GE-free."

ENDS

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