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3-Foods: US biotech industry ignores labelling rules in Australia and NZ

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Genetically altered food safe, says minister

The failure of companies to register foods containing genetically 
modified organisms (GMOs) did not pose a health risk, Victorian Health 
Minister Rob Knowles said today. About 50 foods with genetically 
engineered material, mainly imported from North America, were ingredients 
in about 500 products on Australian supermarket shelves, Mr Knowles said. 
Under new rules by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), such 
foodstuffs have to be registered and appropriately labelled by May 13. 
But Mr Knowles said only two foods had so far been registered. We suspect 
there are in the order of 50 other foodstuffs that have been imported 
primarily from North America but (the required) ... registration has not 
been applied for," he told reporters. "Those 50 foods we think have gone 
into something like 500 products."

Mr Knowles said the reasons for non-compliance included the industry not 
taking the regulations seriously and companies not being aware the food 
they are using in their products contained GMOs. He stressed the 50 
products involved had been through scientific testing and had been 
approved for use. "There are no public health issues. This is more an 
issue of us knowing that they contain GMOs and then we, of course, have 
the labelling issue that is being grappled with," he said. His confidence 
was not shared by doctors across the Tasman. Today The Royal New Zealand 
College of General Practitioners warned its government to take 
"exceptional caution" with regard to genetically modified food because 
much of the research on it raised serious health and environmental safety 
concerns. "Much of the information available is from the proponents of 
the technology - who stand to make a lot of money if it's widely approved 
- but we're now hearing more from independent scientists whose research 
points to significant risks," said college chair, Dr Ralph Wiles.

Meanwhile Mr Knowles said there was concern that trade wars could develop 
if a global approach was not taken to the complex issue. In North America 
food that was significantly modified must be labelled as such, whereas in 
Europe all foods containing GMOs must be labelled. "The Americans have 
made it very clear that if Australia and New Zealand required greater 
labelling requirements than their own that that would constitute a trade 
barrier and therefore we could very quickly get caught up in a trade 
war," he said. "So both the Australian government and the New Zealand 
government are very keen to try and get a worldwide approach to these 
issues so we can in fact avoid those trade implications."

-| Hartmut Meyer
-| Co-ordinator
-| The European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering
-| Reinhaeuser Landstr. 51
-| D - 37083 Goettingen
-| Germany
-| phone: #49-551-7700027
-| fax  : #49-551-7701672
-| email:

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