INDEPENDENT NEWS

Report Shows Food Authority is Failing New Zealand

Published: Tue 21 Oct 2008 09:41 AM
Report Shows Food Authority is Failing New Zealand - 21 October 2008
A new report shows the food authority 'FSANZ' is undermining the rights of New Zealanders to choose safe food, as well as threatening our safety-record for exports.
The independent report into FSANZ’s operations in Australia has revealed a damning record of complicity and compromise in maintaining food standards that are truly world-class, and which provide genuine safety testing of the food supply.
The report is endorsed by 10 international scientists, including New Zealand molecular biologist Dr Jack Heinemann, at the University of Canterbury.
It comes just weeks after New Zealand milk products destined for Korea were rejected because of melamine contamination. At the time a spokesperson from the Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) Sandra Daley dismissed the issue and said the low levels of melamine did not trigger any concerns for New Zealand’s Food Authorities.
This astonishing response, coming on the heals of Fonterra’s San Lu contamination incident, shows staff at the NZFSA and FSANZ have failed to realise that both Australia and New Zealand must be able to meet the highest food safety standards in the world to protect our people and export reputations.
“We cannot have our Food Authorities dismissing other country’s standards as ‘too stringent’: we have to match and exceed them, or we will be seen as second-rate commodity-exporters,” says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.
The new report into FSANZ reveals that the Authority has been selling people short in terms of consumer choice and protection from GE imports. The contents of the study are a wake-up call to government on both sides of the Tasman that our food supply has been hijacked and is open to dangerous compromise by overseas interests.
It was already clear that the New Zealand government has been dismissive of consumer rights by refusing to allow country-of-origin labeling that Australian’s have secured. But it is now more than ironic that the statutory requirement of the food authorities to “promote trade” is threatening the economic wellbeing of our export-based economies.
 “The actions and policies revealed in the report constitute an astonishing betrayal of the public interest in a world where Australia and New Zealand food systems need to be genuinely clean, green, ethical and safe for consumers at home and abroad,” says Jon Carapiet.
“They have sold out the consumer on protection from GE foods, and the fear is that they will sell out our export reputation by compromising standards down to the lowest common denominator.”
Despite the warning of The Australian Insurance Council that food manufacturers could face ‘asbestos-style’ lawsuits in decades ahead arising from the use of GE foods, FSANZ has continued to approve them into the food chain. Yet there is no public health monitoring of the effects on consumers, so doctors cannot even know if a diet-related factor is at work in disease.
The UK government proposed ‘tracking’ of consumers of GE foods by monitoring their supermarket purchases using loyalty cards, much as people use at Foodtown and Woolworth’s in New Zealand.
“The New Zealand government may have once expressed an interest in this approach to public health monitoring of GE foods but as far as we know there is absolutely no tracking or monitoring of health effects in our populations,” says  Jon Carapiet. “There is nothing at all.”
The report highlights facts that give the lie to FSANZ's misleading claims about their scientific and rigorous approach to GE food testing.
These facts include:
-                     No standardised testing for GE foods
-                     Failure to phase out the use of antibiotic-resistance marker genes
-                     Inadequate assessment of potential toxicity, and allergens
-                     Reliance on industry data which is notoriously unreliable
-                     No monitoring of the effects of eating GE food
The report also warns that the rapid commercialisation of Genetic Engineering may be fundamentally flawed. The report cites Prof.Jack Heinemannas saying:  “The real worry for us has always been that the commercial agenda for biotech may be premature, based on what we have long known was an incomplete understanding of genetics. Because gene patents and the genetic engineering process itself are both defined in terms of genes acting independently, regulators may be unaware of the potential impacts arising from these network effects.”
New Zealanders and Australians deserve better from those people at FSANZ and the NZFSA appointed as watchdogs, paid by the public purse, and trusted to genuinely care for the integrity of the food supply.
ENDS

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