14 December 2007

Food origin labeling

I noted with disappointment the recent decision by the New Zealand Government Food Safety Authority not to require compulsory country-of-origin labeling . Yet again, this is something that the Australians do better, as they have in so many areas. Perhaps we should consider moving to Australia as so many other New Zealanders are doing, especially considering the apparent economic advantages enjoyed across the Tasman, which is why nearly 10% of New Zealanders seem to prefer living there. Even better, let's just invoke a little-known provision of the Constitution document which established Austrialia's states, and add New Zealand onto the list. (After all, prior to the Treaty of Waitangi, NZ was governed as part of New South Wales from 1840-1841.) I guess one advantage of political or national union is that we could put an end to the ignominious defeats of our national Cricket and Rugby teams, by competing at the State level rather than as our own country.

I'm also very much a supporter of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in food -- but ONLY when the food and products prepared using GMO ingredients are clearly and correctly labelled, so that consumers have a choice. Included on the label should be some sort of unique identifier for transgenic items, which can then be identified in a publicly-available database.

Personally, I'm not afraid of responsible genetic modification of food products -- as long as there is disclosure, and the possibility of informed debate on the topic. Let the market decide -- but also the various governments should heavily fine and prosecute companies who try to hide the truth. The danger comes when governments intervene for what appear to be solely economic reasons.

Ordinary consumers, such as myself, are hardly equipped to make correct Risk Assessments in relation to the potential dangers of GMO foods--we rely on our government Food Safety bodies to do this job on our behalf. The risk here is just how much will the Food Safety authorities be swayed by economic arguments from the major agri-businesses -- who are more concerned with returning profit to their shareholders than the safety of their foods, let alone the unintended ecological impact, on which the jury is still out.

No comments: