INDEPENDENT NEWS

Min Health Survey Gives Clear Message On Labels

Published: Thu 5 Aug 1999 02:53 PM
Health Ministry Survey Shows Labels Should Be Meaningful
A Health Ministry genetic engineering survey released today supports arguments for meaningful food labelling, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.
"I was upset by the wording of the ministry's public questions, which were biased in favour of genetic engineering," Ms Fitzsimons said. "Even so the public has given the Government a clear message."
Yesterday's transtasman announcement that genetically engineered food would be labelled provided more questions than answers, with uncertainty yet when any labels might appear on supermarket shelves and whether the labels would consist of vague information such as "may contain G-E ingredients".
"It appeared to be a side-lining decision, rather than a major step forward, with no official labels likely to appear in New Zealand until well after the general election," Ms Fitzsimons said.
"Consumers clearly want more action. In the Health Ministry survey 2713 people said they wanted labels even for foods like oils, starches and sugars, which are the bulk of genetically engineered foods already here, compared to 171 who said no. [The way the question was phrased was: "Should the criteria for labelling foods produced using gene technology extend to those virtually the same as conventional food?" The "virtually the same" argument is used by Monsanto for its genetically engineered oils in New Zealand shops.]
"The decision on labelling these foods has been deferred until the Australia New Zealand Food Authority's October meeting," Ms Fitzsimons said.
"A question about introducing `may contain' labels, which seems to be a suggestion being pushed by food authority officials, was opposed by 1411 people, while 1009 said it may be helpful," Ms Fitzsimons said. "Yet the decision is that `may contain' labels will be allowed. This amounts to a `neither confirm nor deny" policy."
According to the ministry analysis: "Some said this label would be better than nothing".
ENDS

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