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Opening Agcarm conference Speech

Hon David Bennett

Minister for Food Safety

27 July 2017

Opening Agcarm conference

Good morning

Thank you Mark, for your introduction and thank you Agcarm, for the invitation to join the 70th Annual Conference. It is a pleasure to be here.

Let me acknowledge Kirk Hope, Business NZ’s chief executive, Sir Mark Soloman - Canterbury District Health Board’s chairman, Dr Helen Darling, the director of the Asia Pacific Centre for Food Integrity, and Mike Chapman – HortNZ’s chief executive.

Thank you to your President, Mark Christie, the representatives on your Board and your Chief Executive, Mark Ross.

Agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines, or ACVM, play an important role. Their use is essential to address animal welfare and to produce safe and suitable food we can sell with confidence in New Zealand and overseas.

Farmers and food producers around New Zealand depend on them to:
• improve the quantity and quality of their produce;
• keep people, animals and crops healthy; and
• reduce the spread of diseases, weeds, parasites and other pests.

This conference is about discovering, discussing and advocating for the plant and animal science industries. It is a credit to New Zealand that Agcarm has existed for the past 70 years. It is a vitally important component to our agricultural industry which at $37 billion export value, is the engine room of New Zealand’s economy.
ACVM is a key tool in propelling this industry forward. And you are all a part of ensuring we are at the forefront of world-wide innovation.

In the Food Safety sector we embrace science and technology like ACVM. Tools like ACVM, and strong regulations allow New Zealand to have one of the best food safety systems in the world. Strong regulations are imperative for our trading partners to trust in New Zealand and its produce. It’s important to capitalise on the trust, and encourage producers and exporters to take tools, like traceability, and start using them in conjunction with intangibles as the ultimate value add. We need to draw on aspects, like New Zealand’s clean, green and pure image to get premium price for our high quality exports.

All primary industry sectors - and the public - recognise the importance of having regulatory oversight of the ACVM products in use by farmers and growers.

Appropriate regulation ensures ACVM products are effective, while ensuring there is no harm to people, animals, plants and the environment. It also ensures any residues that occur in food are not a food safety concern.

But the regulation of the ACVM system needs to be balanced:

• an under-regulated industry could jeopardise the credibility of our systems and our food safety reputation which are essential for our consumers and trading partners’ confidence.

• an overly prescriptive framework could stifle innovation, resulting in fewer options to manage pests and disease, reduced investment in research and development and higher costs to produce food.

Our current regulatory system works well, aligns with international standards and is highly regarded by our trading partners. But to remain at the forefront, we must take every opportunity to make improvements to ensure we have the balance right.

The government is making it easier for companies to bring innovative agricultural products to the New Zealand market.

We have recently changed the law to extend data protection arrangements. This is in recognition that developing the data required to register a product can be costly. With greater certainty about being able to recoup costs, businesses are more likely to invest in research and register new products or new uses in New Zealand.

We encourage industry to make use these of these extended protections. In particular, to help bring new innovative products for use on our minor crops and minor animal species.

MPI is nearing completion of a review of their ACVM registration processes to help simplify the process for business and improve timeframes and risk management practices. MPI will continue to work proactively with industry to deliver a more efficient and mutually beneficial system.

MPI has identified potential changes to the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (Exemptions and Prohibited Substances) Regulations which could be made in the short-term.

These changes will provide clarity and confidence for manufacturers of products, and provide greater scope for product exemptions. They will also reflect updated knowledge of risk around some product groups.

We encourage Agcarm and their members to get involved at the public consultation stage.

The world in which we operate is continually changing. Greater market emphasis on food safety and the increasing complexity of global supply chains are posing new challenges and opportunities.

Consumers, retailers and trading partners want more information and higher standards around how their food is produced. They want proof of the integrity of products and a full account of every input used.

The Government works hard to ensure our food safety system is one of the best in the world. As well as regulating the use of certain chemicals, we carry out a range of monitoring activities, including regular testing of food.

Our testing results confirm that for the most part, good agricultural practices are being followed in the use of ACVM products. This indicates that current controls conform to both consumer expectations and international regulatory requirements.
These good results are the product of the agriculture chemical industry, government and farmers all working hard to do their bit:

• Government – in setting the appropriate rules and regulations;
• ACVM product manufacturers – in the correct manufacturing and labelling of their products; and
• Farmers – in the correct use of these products.
Advances in chemical and microbiological testing of food are continuously being improved and becoming available to commercial laboratories. MPI is embracing these new technologies.

MPI is also working with multiple international forums, including the Codex Alimentarius Commission, to reinforce sound science as a basis for trade.

The recent session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission endorsed a New Zealand-initiated work proposal to develop an internationally harmonised approach to address chemicals inadvertently present in food at low levels.
Internationally harmonised guidelines will be important to prevent any potential trade issues and enable us to adopt new technologies and innovative farming practices to address the challenges of climate change, sustainable development and protection of the environment.

Scientific breakthroughs and technical advances are creating opportunities for the primary industries to improve the use of ACVM products to support greater environmental management, such as the use of bio-pesticides to improve pest and disease control. They are also creating opportunities to grow new value-add products such as low-THC hemp milk.

The challenge for the New Zealand primary industries will be how they can access these technologies. Agcarm has a critical role to play here.

The Government is supporting the development of new or innovative products

The Government recognises uptake of new technologies may be inhibited by low levels of investment. Therefore, we are investing heavily in long-term innovation programmes in partnership with industry.

MPI and industry have committed investment of around $759 million in 22 programmes through the Primary Growth Partnership. These programmes are creating new products, increasing health and wellbeing of the primary industries workforce and reducing environmental impacts.

MPI and industry are also jointly investing in research to improve food safety through the Food Safety Science and Research Centre, which we launched last year. The Centre has been set up to deliver science and research across the supply and value chains, from farm to plate, in order for New Zealand to continue to ensure the highest levels of food safety.

Biosecurity will be important for the future use of ACVM products. We are working to ensure we retain a strong biosecurity system in New Zealand. This work will include looking at the key issue of how to maintain social licence for the use of products like pesticides, as well as a focus on how to improve the uptake of innovative new tools.

Turning finally to partnership, it’s important to highlight the benefits of cooperation between the Government and the private sector to solve important issues, such as antimicrobial resistance.

My colleague – Dr Jonathan Coleman – Minister of Health, and I, have been working with Ministry of Primary Industries and Ministry of Health to implement the Anti-microbial resistance action plan.

The action plan uses a range of strategies to manage AMR, including surveillance and monitoring activities, and regulatory oversight of antimicrobials in animals and plants. It will also improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance, improve infection prevention and better control the transmission of microorganisms.

The AMR plan was tabled earlier this year at the World Health Organisation in Geneva, and is being released in New Zealand for implementation.

It is a culmination of work from agriculture, human and animal health sectors, addressing infections becoming resistant to antibiotic, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal medications after misuse.

As a major food producer and exporter, New Zealand must manage this risk for animals and plants effectively.

The plan is an important and exciting step forward in protecting Kiwis, their livelihoods and addressing a global issue – mircobials becoming resistant to medication,

Thank you Agcarm for your contributions in the management of AMR including your support for the AMR work programme.

Another example is in Bee Health. New Zealand relies on bees. The honey bee is an important pollinator for pastoral, arable and horticulture production. Bees pollinate crops that are worth at least NZ$4.5 billion annually to New Zealand’s economy and our honey exports reached $223 million in 2015.

The Government is committed to better understanding bee health. We have invested $500,000 to conduct the first ever comprehensive three-year survey of bee health in New Zealand. The study will benchmark the prevalence and incidence of viruses, bacteria, fungal spores and parasites in New Zealand apiaries.
This programme is developing new tools for MPI and beekeepers to respond to threats in apiculture.

The Government is taking action to get baseline information on the health of our honey bee colonies. MPI has contracted Landcare Research to annually survey New Zealand's managed honey bee colonies from 2015 to 2017.

A partnership between, Agcarm and Apiculture New Zealand launched a campaign in September 2016 to increase awareness of the importance of keeping bees safe by using agrichemicals responsibly. I commend this and encourage Agcarm to continue in its campaign.

Agcarm is one of the founders of the Agrecovery rural recycling programme established in 2006.

Agrecovery collects unwanted agrichemicals and recycle empty containers and drums. Containers are collected from more than 70 sites across New Zealand.

The brand owners that distribute agrichemical, animal health and dairy hygiene products into the New Zealand market take responsibility for the disposal of these products and their packaging.

Since 2007, more than 1.5 tonnes of plastic containers have been recycled and, since 2009, nearly 100,000 kilograms of chemicals have been recovered. This is an impressive result.
Delivering food that is safe and suitable remains the cornerstone of New Zealand’s food safety system. The Government is continually adapting and strengthening our food safety system to make sure it continues to be amongst the best in the world.

The Government is working hard to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens for business, provide clarity and flexibility in regulations and support innovation and changes from science and technology.

Industry has a big role to play in supporting these objectives and we encourage you to use the extended data protection we have recently provided in the ACVM Act to bring more innovative and sustainable products into New Zealand – particularly for our minor species and minor crops.

Keep working on the product partnership front – your work in rural recovery and recycling of chemicals and in bee health is paying dividends. We look forward to working together further on managing antimicrobial resistance.

Thank you for your ongoing contribution to Government processes. We are committed to continue working with you.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak here this morning. Have an enjoyable and enlightening 70th conference.


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