As consumers, we must be able to make informed choices about the food we buy and eat, and feed our kids. If a food has been produced with genetically modified (GE) ingredients, we should know about it. Just last month, the US state of Vermont won the right to make labelling of GMO foods compulsory for this very reason. In actual fact, the law was made more than a year ago, but was fought by a group, including the equivalent of New Zealand’s Food & Grocery Council, and major industrial food companies, to delay its implementation. Hopefully, we’ll see more states join Vermont in making labelling of GE products a legal requirement, so that everyone understands the origins of their food and can make an informed choice.
Photo: Okano\Flickr | BY CC
New Zealand has a similar law making the labelling of many GE foods compulsory, but the Government seems to let it slide. Because the government has not monitored or enforced our GE food labelling laws since 2003, it seems the Government is siding with the Food & Grocery Council here, which also does not want enforced GE food labelling rules. The Government has caved in to big food interests ahead of consumers again.
GE food is less common here, so why should it be such a big deal to enforce the law, when the US, where GE foods are common, has started the move towards labelling?
Labelling is being introduced internationally because people are increasingly recognising that they have a right to know what’s in their food and are increasingly aware of the implications of genetic engineering on the environment and on human health.
New Zealand imports significant GE material for stock food which is mostly heavily laced with Roundup, recently listed as a probable carcinogen by the UN and as affecting antibiotic effectiveness. Roundup is used on GE crops that have been developed to be resistant to that herbicide, so residues are much higher in those crops. Roundup is also an endocrine disruptor and needs to be removed from the food chain entirely. Labelling GE foods allows consumers to dodge the worst of the poor food and focus on choosing the best. Buying organic is one way, but labelling is essential for full consumer choice.
With the dangers of GE foods and Roundup becoming increasingly known, we hope that the New Zealand Government will now take labelling seriously, and uphold the reasons it became law in the first place.
For more information about New Zealand’s GE labelling, see this article from the NZ Herald.