New Zealand's international reputation for safe food is under threat as a result of a secret deal signed last week with the US Food and Drug Administration.(1)
The deal for mutual recognition of food safety regimes is being promoted by government as a 'win' for New Zealand, but appears to be part of a wider agenda to harmonise legislation and allow the smooth signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, aligned to the "one U.S. Government" approach to importation and food safety (2).
This deal is a dangerous and unprecedented move. It opens up New Zealand�s biosecurity to increased risks, which is the price to pay for delivering what the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) calls a reduction in �regulatory burden for foods traded between the countries�.
Around the world New Zealand's reputation for safe food could be considered to be better than that of the USA, which has a history of political influence and compromise of scientific standards.
It is the FDA which has recently approved GE fish to enter the food chain untested and unlabelled, and which has turned a blind eye to the entry of animal clone meat and milk products into the US food chain. It is the FDA which years ago deliberately ignored the advice of its own scientists by deeming GE foods to be 'substantially equivalent' to normal food so avoiding proper regulation.(3)
The issue of regulation of genetically engineered (GE) foods is dominated by the US in this deal and will now have little if any New Zealand consumer input.
There is now a threat that New Zealand's labelling laws for GE will be 'gone by Christmas'. If the FDA deems a food safe, New Zealand has to accept the ruling and will be forced to allow GE imports of novel GE foods 'gene-stacked' to resist multiple herbicides including 2,4-D.
The deal also hides a serious conflict of interest. The Deputy Commissioner of the FDA is Michael Taylor, was also a lawyer for Monsanto. On his watch all Monsanto GE foods have been deemed safe regardless of the lack of safety data and concerns raised by independent scientists.
The MPI is also highly conflicted, as it has to advance a trade agenda whilst also considering public health and safety.Unfortunately for consumers and for New Zealand's reputation, it will be food safety that is compromised to serve trade interests.
"With the ever-rising problems associated with GE foods and crops the situation is becoming one of the 'fox guarding the chicken house,'" says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-free NZ in food and environment.
"New Zealand has in effect just given away its sovereignty, and its control to import foods that can be assured as safe in the long term."
This deal is a nasty surprise for people in New Zealand and for our markets overseas. New Zealand would be better to distance itself from decades of the FDA's scientific compromises, degradation of the integrity of the US food supply, and domination by industry lobbyists.
The deal threatens to increase trade in unregulated, unmonitored and undesirable food products that are already part of the US food landscape.
This deal will not make food safer, but will limit New Zealand's capacity to differentiate our products on the world stage.
 NZ food safety recognition by United States momentous http://www.mpi.govt.nz/news-resources/news
 Continuing the "One U.S. Government" approach to Import Safety http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Speeches/ucm320735.htm
 Agency Contradicted Own Experts in Approving Genetically Engineered Foods -- Misrepresented Facts in Order to Promote U.S. Biotech Industry http://online.sfsu.edu/rone/GEessays/FDAdocuments.html
Jon Carapiet 0210507681
Claire Bleakley 3089842 / 027 3486731