GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 11th December 2003

Fear of Sell-out Over Country of Origin Labelling

There are fears that a confidential meeting in Auckland of Australian and New Zealand food Ministers could sell both nations short by opposing rather than promoting clear country-of-origin labelling. 

Despite the obvious benefits for exporters in both countries of being able to leverage "clean green" credentials overseas through identifying the "country of origin" as New Zealand or Australia, the global agenda to promote free trade could see ministers making decisions that undermine such labelling.

" We already have signs that the New Zealand's government is willing to back free trade at the price of people’s basic rights. Our additional fear is that New Zealand exporters will be hampered by the desire to prevent full country-of-origin labelling," says Jon Carapiet, from GE Free NZ in food and environment.

"Just as labelling GE-free can be a valuable marketing difference, so too is the name "New Zealand". People have the right to know where food ingredients come from, but this may be denied if ministers decide it hampers their free trade ambitions, especially with the US."

"New Zealand is already party to the US push to force GM food into Europe. A rejection of full country of origin labelling would be an outright
betrayal of our national interests and our values" says Jon Carapiet.

The Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council oversees everything to do with food, from irradiation to GE ingredients and
labelling. 

The secret and closed-door meeting is to be held at the Auckland Hyatt on Friday 12th December.

Jon Carapiet 09 815 3370

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Reference
Greens Press release: Food Ministers cook up secret recipe
The secrecy surrounding a top-level meeting of trans-Tasman food ministers in Auckland tomorrow is excessive and further indication of how little
input ordinary New Zealanders have into decisions about what they eat, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today. Despite a total publicity black-out, Ms Kedgley has discovered that the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council is meeting tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency in Auckland.

The council oversees everything to do with food, from irradiation to GE ingredients to labelling to how food is manufactured and what is in it. New Zealand is represented by Food Safety Minister Annette King and is entitled to just one vote on the 10-member council. “Officials will only confirm that the agenda for the meeting is confidential, all papers and discussions relating to the meeting are confidential and that any communication the Council chooses to make will be made in the form of an advisory after the meeting,” said Ms Kedgley the Green Food Safety spokesperson.

The Council’s documents aren’t even available under the Official Information Act, as it has been ruled to be an international organisation. “Frankly, it is disgraceful that New Zealand is reduced to the status of a state of Australia when decisions are made about what we eat and that such decisions are shrouded in a level of secrecy that the CIA or the Masons would be proud of,” Ms Kedgley said. “We suspect tomorrow’s meeting will discuss country of origin labelling of food and possibly the addition of folate to all flour produced in Australia and New Zealand.

But the Council’s obsession with secrecy means that we just don’t know what they’ll talk about, what arguments they will consider or what decisions they’ll make. “It is simply unacceptable for such important discussions to be held behind closed doors, and for New Zealand to have such a small say in what New Zealanders eat.”

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