Finally, some support for Country of Origin Labelling

I’ve just noticed on the Hand Mirror that at least one Labour Party candidate disagrees with his party’s policy on refusing people the right to know where their food comes from – Paul Chalmers from Whangarei:

Question 10. Women do the vast majority of cooking and shopping, and increases in food prices are a burden borne disproportionately by women. What do you think our government can or should do to ensure that everyone has access to good food?

Food labelling of ingredients including place of origin and a bit of community gardening – not so much for the food but for the fun!

That corresponds with the Otago Daily Times earlier this week, which opined:

What is inconsistent about the opposition to country-of-origin food labelling is that the rationale of New Zealand food exporters in claiming the benefits from the “clean, green” imagery ensures New Zealand-produced food is so-labelled, with few exceptions.

The “Made in New Zealand” is a proud and valuable label indeed.

Yet in this country it is far easier to find out where your shirt was made than where your breakfast originated…

But it does not really matter why consumers decide to buy or not to buy food for there could be any number of reasons, rational and irrational, and they may have nothing whatever to do with food safety.

Some people, for instance, want to ensure the food they eat has the least possible “carbon footprint”.

They should be able to make informed decisions about their purchases, whatever they may be, without difficulty, and if there is an extra national economic benefit, so much the better.

11 thoughts on “Finally, some support for Country of Origin Labelling

  1. I’ve never understood this one. Market purists go on about giving people the info and letting the market decide, but are unusually silent in this matter. Another example of socialism for corporates and market discipline for the rest of us.

  2. Valis,

    Market purists do not “go on about giving people the info and letting the market decide.”

    They are, however, in favour of a free market where two parties agree on a deal if it is mutually agreeable; and all without coercion.

    You are advocating the coercion of one party. Where do people like you get off with such threats of violence?

  3. wat, tha problem is when one party has all the information and is suppressing it, and the other party has very little information.

    If you want a “free” market, then surely commercial information should be “free” too.

    Otherwise there are unfair advantages, because neither consumers or competitors know everything about your product or service.

    I’m not saying competitors should be able to steal the rights to your product (I’m a supporter of intellectual property rights), but they should be able to know everything about it, so they can compete effectively in the market.

    Is not that what a “free” market is really about?

  4. “Market purists do not “go on about giving people the info and letting the market decide.”

    I may not have phrased that well, but they most surely do require that both sides in a transaction have as much information as possible before entering into an agreement. I’m not talking about commercially sensitive info or IP either, but info that would likely influence a decision to buy or sell.

    “You are advocating the coercion of one party. Where do people like you get off with such threats of violence?”

    Very funny.

  5. - “If you want a “free” market, then surely commercial information should be “free” too. ”

    Why should the same legislation not also be used to coerce vendors into revealing whether blacks or gays were involved in the production of a product, so racists and homophobes can discriminate too?
    Why should state force be used to pander just to your ugly xenophobia?
    After all, isn’t it essential that “both sides in a transaction have as much information as possible before entering into an agreement” and “if you want a “free” market, then surely commercial information should be “free” too.“?

    – “Is not that what a “free” market is really about?”

    You really don’t know what the word “free” means at all, do you?

  6. >>Why should the same legislation not also be used to coerce vendors into revealing whether blacks or gays were involved in the production of a product, so racists and homophobes can discriminate too?

    So wat, how far are you prepared to go in the opposite direction? What indeed is the relevant information a prospective buyer needs to know? A minimalist position may be that need be known is that company A (of no given address) has manufactured (distributed?) quantity X of product P. Is that your contention?

  7. kjuv,

    – “What indeed is the relevant information a prospective buyer needs to know?”

    A prospective buyer doesn’t “need” to know very much at all. On the other hand, he might like to know a great deal – and is free to make it a condition of purchase. If the seller chooses not to provide certain information then the trade may not proceed. It remains at all times an entirely private matter.

    Otherwise, by the same token, shouldn’t a seller be informed of each and every detail about a prospective buyer? It could be that a vendor is as xenophobic as Winston Peters or the Greens and wishes to avoid trading with foreigners. If the Greens are arguing that sellers must be coerced into providing the information to facilitate their discrimination, surely it is equally the case that the other party in the trade must also be entitled to receive the same information (and act on it in anyway he chooses)?

  8. Waht on earth are you bothered about Wat? It’s not about avoiding trading with foreigners; for me, it’s about knowing who those ‘foreigners’ are and how the food is produced. For others, it may be a different issue altogether. It’s a pretty basic right.

  9. Wat

    The choice of not buying food is a bit extreme. If no food is labeled what exactly do I eat? That is the condition we find ourselves in in the supermarket in general.

    If I am buying I have a right to know everything about the product I am buying. Not the seller, the product. The seller is the supermarket. IT bought its product from some guy with a warehouse and HE bought it off a boat from Brazil… maybe.

    I have a right to ask where the product came from and if the market is as perverse as it is about getting me that information I very certainly CAN collectively demand through the government that information about the source of the product be available. There’s nothing immoral about it. Nor is it particularly nosy. It is a sane reaction to the varying conditions of agriculture, transportation and food production around the planet.

    I don’t care WHO the seller is. I do care where the food comes from. It is a “WHERE question, not a “WHO” question. Lets not confuse them.

    BJ

  10. Janine,

    – “It’s a pretty basic right”

    Actually, it isn’t.

    You seem to think that a “right” is “anything you’d really really like to have,” but that’s not the case at all. Rights never involve forcing other people to comply with your demands in this way.

    bjchip,

    – The choice of not buying food is a bit extreme. If no food is labeled what exactly do I eat?”

    Well, what have you been eating up till now? Have some more of that.

    And of course you are free to grow all your own food or to open your own food shop and stick whatever information you like on the products. The fact that you choose not to exercise either of these two options does not, however, somehow bestow the right on you to go out and force other people to comply with your demands.
    You made the trade off – a very high standard of living from specialised non-manual labour (but less information about your food) versus working a patch of dirt seven days a week and gaining complete and intimate knowledge of your food.

    – “If I am buying I have a right to know everything about the product I am buying.”

    If I’m selling something on TradeMe you have absolutely no “right” to jail me if I don’t answer any and all questions you ask: And TradeMe is no different in principle to any supermarket.
    You have the right to freely engage in trade with others, and if they don’t care to answer your questions you are free to decline the deal. And that’s where your rights end.

    – “I very certainly CAN collectively demand through the government that Jews be made to wear yellow stars.”

    Sorry. Typo.

    But you might want to ease up on the thuggishness a little.

    – “I don’t care WHO the seller is. I do care where the food comes from. It is a “WHERE question, not a “WHO” question. Lets not confuse them.”

    But maybe a seller is interested in you and, like you, claims as a basic right that you provide all the information he wants to know, to make it easier for him to discriminate in any way he sees fit, just as you do.
    Oh, wait. I get it. This basic “right” you invented extends only as far as the particular information that you are interested in.

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