Australia and New Zealand Require GM Food Labelling
Australia and New Zealand Require Labelling of Genetically-Modified Foods
WELLINGTON - Australia and New Zealand agreed to order the mandatory labelling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the two governments said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The health ministers for the two governments announced the decision through their joint Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZFSC).
"ANZFSC has agreed to require mandatory labelling of foods produced using gene technology and foods containing genetically modified ingredients," the council said.
How the labelling would be enforced would be decided in October, the food council said.
This would include the setting of a threshold level for genetically modified ingredients before a food has to be labelled as containing genetic modifications.
The food council would also consider whether to allow manufacturers to label their goods with the label that the product "might contain genetically modified ingredients approved by health authorities" to allow them to avoid the need to track the genetic history of all ingredients.
Last week the United States warned Japan against mandatory labelling of foods containing GMOs as an unfair barrier to trade. The U.S. position is that it would be unfair to corporations if consumers knew the contents of what they were buying. Knowledgeable buyers are considered an unfair trade barrier -- the U.S. wants its citizens to have no choice.
However, New Zealand Health Minister Wyatt Creech said the common theme of public submissions on the issue was that the consumer had a right to know whether the food they were buying was genetically modified.
"The New Zealand government is committed to ensuring food sold and available in New Zealand is safe for people to eat," he said in a statement.
"We are also committed to giving consumers information to make an informed choice about what they are buying."
The food council said it would consider the implications for the two countries' World Trade Organisation obligations in requiring genetically modified foods to be labelled.
New Zealand food manufacturers warned that the cost to industry of monitoring ingredients and labelling all genetically engineered foods would amount to approximately NZ$150 million ($80 million) a year.
"Most food manufacturers use between about two to three thousand ingredients in processed foods...that is a very big task," Brenda Cutress of the Grocery Marketing Association told Radio New Zealand.
"It is very difficult keeping GE and non-GE ingredients separated through complex supply-chains. That's where the cost lies."
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