Kiwis are increasingly concerned about the food they give their families. New Zealand consumers have the right to know where their food has come from, particularly when it involves animals, and should be able to expect our Government to label food to meet New Zealanders expectations.
A recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling has said that country of origin labels (CoOL) on some meat in the United States will have to be dropped or revised. New Zealanders must not be subject to such rulings, yet our government officials consistently lobby internationally for the WTO approach.
Australia has an enviable CoOL system but successive New Zealand governments have blocked mandatory CoOL here. This has meant that a lot of meat, fruit and vegetables eaten in New Zealand is now from overseas and does not need labelling. This is unfair for discerning consumers and New Zealand farmers and food producers alike.
When New Zealand is embarking on trade deals, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, we need to be clear what this will mean for our country. It may allow big business to block CoOL in the way the WTO has. The possibility that international corporations might be able to sue our government over what New Zealand consumers can and can’t know about our food is ridiculous. It is our right to have accurate and transparent information freely available. Our government must protect New Zealanders and local producers.
We have a private members’ bill drafted to make CoOL mandatory. Here’s hoping it gets traction this term. I, for one, would like New Zealanders to know if their bacon comes from Levin or from Mexico.
Currently, approximately 52% of pork consumed here is imported from all over the world. Introducing country of origin labelling would mean that you and I could choose to support New Zealand farmers instead of products of dubious quality or origin. We could also continue to choose to support those farmers to increase their animal welfare standards, and of course, encourage them to go organic.
New Zealand consumers and farmers need our protection and support – mandatory country of origin labelling is a good step in that direction.