Australian and New Zealand health ministers, including state government ministers, must today give a definite "yes" to a
meaningful labelling regime for genetically engineered food, the Green Party says.
"In real `Yes Minister' style bureaucrats have effectively sidelined this issue for a year," Greens Co-Leader Jeanette
Fitzsimons said today. "The result is we've yet to see one official GE label on our supermarket shelves."
Australian and New Zealand health ministers are due to meet in Canberra today to consider whether all genetically
modified foods should be compulsorily labelled.
Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said officials and the grocery industry were making a last ditch effort to
water down and further-delay labelling provisions. There was a danger, for example, of meaningless "may contain" labels.
"Officials in the Australia New Zealand Food Authority will argue that full mandatory labelling of all foods will impose
unreasonable costs on industry and on consumers who purchase food," she said. "I understand there are also efforts to
extend the introduction period even more.
"Meanwhile industry scare tactics routinely inflate labelling and compliance costs. But this is just a red herring.
Industry never complains about the huge amount of resource that goes into advertising and selling its products."
Ms Fitzsimons said the fuss by the grocery industry over "genetically engineered" labels was ridiculous considering
there was little problem in listing other product ingredients.
"It would be particularly cowardly if the ministers and our food officials now took heed of the last-ditch spoiling
efforts of the Grocery Industry Council, which has already distributed pro-genetic engineering pamphlets using the
language of Monsanto," Ms Fitzsimons said.
"On December 17, 1998, ministers of Australian states outvoted New Zealand's representative minister Tuariki Delamere,
and required transtasman labelling of GE food," Ms Fitzsimons says. "It is time to end the bureaucratic nonsense and put
that decision into effect."