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Unlabelled GE food gets 12 month reprieve


26 August 2001
Unlabelled GE food gets 12 month reprieve

Green Safe Food spokesperson Sue Kedgley is flabbergasted at the cheek of the Australian New Zealand Food Authority in seeking to allow unlabelled GE food to remain on our shelves for a further 12 months.

A labelling regime for GE foods is due to come into effect on 7 December this year, but ANZFA is seeking a shot-gun exemption to allow unlabelled stocks to continue to be sold for another year.

"ANZFA is rushing to get a loophole inserted into the labelling rules which will mean unlabelled GE food can be sold for a further 12 months from 7 December," said Ms Kedgley.

The labelling regime is already far too weak and full of exemptions, but consumers have been waiting five years for it and at least it's a start. Now it looks like it's going to be a false start, leaving shoppers in the dark about the GM content on supermarket shelves for another year.

"Full labelling is not only a consumer right, it is also an essential food safety issue to enable food recalls from the market in case of unexpected adverse effects."

Ms Kedgley said Australian and New Zealand Health Ministers had already turned down an earlier attempt by the food industry to allow a 12 month exemption for long shelf-life products.

"At the time (July 2000), the ministers said industry would have had more than two and a half years to get ready for the labelling regime by December 2001.

"Industry had 18 months notification that the labelling regime was coming in, and then an additional 12 months to prepare after the labelling regime was gazetted in December 2000.

"A year later and ANZFA has obviously capitulated to intensive lobbying by the food industry, which is arguing that it would 'encounter difficulty' in fully complying with the labelling regime by December."

Ms Kedgley said consumers would be outraged at this further attempt to delay GE labelling.

"I predict consumers will be even more outraged when they find out about the way ANZFA is ramming the regulation change through without adequate public consultation.

Instead of the statutory two rounds of six-eight week public consultation, ANZFA is invoking emergency procedures which will allow it to conduct only a three week sham consultation.

Please find attached excerpt from ANZFA proposal P249


EXCERPT FROM ANZFA PROPOSAL P249

2.4 Implementation of GM food labelling requirements

In the Intergovernmental Taskforce Report on the labelling of genetically modified foods provided to the ANZFSC meeting on 28 July 2000, the Task Force addressed the issue of implementation of the labelling provisions in the following manner -

"26. Date of Implementation

* Industry raised the issue of the timing of implementation and urged that the 12-month implementation period be extended to take into consideration long shelf-life products that would remain on the market, unlabelled, after the commencement date. Industry also urged that the revised Standard come into effect at the same time as the new Joint Code.

* The Task Force considered that industry has had notification of the intended labelling regulations for over 18 months and that a 12-month implementation period is likely to be sufficient for the significant majority of products to be turned over and long shelf-life products should not be a major issue.

* The Task Force recommended that 12-month implementation period be applied to the revised Standard.

* If Ministers consider that this is still a significant issue they may agree that the revised Standard be applied to foods produced after the date of commencement."

ANZFSC decided that a 12 month implementation period was sufficient to allow industry to implement the revised labelling requirements. However, since this date, it has become apparent that industry will encounter significant difficulty in ensuring that food products manufactured prior to 7 December 2001 will comply with the labelling requirements being imposed after that date. During the 'Stakeholder Forum' discussions held by ANZFA at the time of its Board meeting in May 2001, a number of industry representatives raised the possibility of implementing a 'stock-in-trade' provision for the operation of the new GM food labelling requirements due to commence on 7 December 2001.

The Food Regulation Standing Committee recommended to the ANZFSC meeting of 31 July 2001, that ANZFA be requested to raise a proposal to consider the development of provisions relating to "stock-in-trade". This recommendation followed representations from the food industry advising that it was considered necessary to include provisions in the Food Standards Code which had the effect of allowing the continued sale of "stock-in-trade" in existence prior to 7 December 2001, the scheduled commencement date of the GM food labelling requirements.

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