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6-Regulation: Australia and New Zealand adopted strict GE food labelling law

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----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  A) GM food hit with world's toughest rules
        B) Australian food groups, consumers welcome GM code
SOURCE: A) Australian Financial Review, by Patrick Smellie,
           Wellington and Chelsey Martin
        B) Reuters, by Michael Byrnes
DATE:   A) July 28, 2000
        B) July 31, 2000

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A) GM food hit with world's toughest rules

Australia and New Zealand have adopted one of the strictest labelling 
regimes in the world for genetically modified foods after a crucial 
health ministers' meeting on Friday rejected the Prime Minister's 
preferred labelling model. The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for 
Health, Senator Grant Tambling, found weak support from only Western 
Australia and the Northern Territory for the Federal Government's 
proposal for a blanket exemption from labelling requirements for 
foods containing up to 1 per cent genetically modified ingredients.

Instead, Australia and New Zealand will, within 12 months, require 
"labelling of food and food ingredients where novel DNA and/or 
protein is present in the final food" or "where the food has altered 
characteristics". But in a compromise, the health ministers have 
decided to allow a 1 per cent tolerance for food that has been 
accidentally or inadvertently contaminated.

Friday's decision immediately prompted the announcement of a new GM-
free line of products by one of Australia's retail giants, Coles 
Myer. Coles Supermarkets' managing director, Mr Alan Williams, said 
the retailer had been working with suppliers on the new GM-free label 
and was "well down the track" on a range of products.

"Meaningful labelling enables customers to make a choice in regard to 
their purchasing, but given the strength of feeling our customers 
have demonstrated, Coles Supermarkets will go one step further to 
give customers a choice to buy non-GM products," Mr Williams said.

Under the new regime, highly refined oils and sugars, produced from 
GM crops but which contain no "novel DNA and/or protein" because 
these are eliminated during the manufacturing process, will not 
require labelling. For the same reason, almost no foods produced 
using GM processing aids or food additives will require labels. 
Flavours representing a concentration less than or equal to 0.1 per 
cent in the final food, and food prepared at the point of sale, will 
also be exempt. Verification will be mainly by paper-based audit 
trails, supported by testing to determine the likely presence of 
novel DNA and protein in food made by recognised manufacturing 
processes. Batch-by-batch testing will not be required.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council's executive director, Mr 
Mitch Hooke, welcomed "the general direction of the decision" on 
Friday, claiming the regime was a hybrid between the Prime Minister's 
proposal and the European Union model,which the grocery industry 
group has supported. But Mr Hooke said the inclusion of some 
processing aids in the labelling regime meant the system was more 
onerous than thatin Europe and wouldbe stricter than any other system 
in the world. The Federal Opposition said the decision would 
guarantee consumers had a choice and called on Mr Howard to give it 
his unequivocal support.

The Australian Consumers' Association said the decision was only a 
partial win for consumers. It expresseddisappointment at the decision 
to exclude foods made at the point of sale.

While firm calculations of the cost to consumers and the number of 
processed foods affected by the regime are unavailable, the SA 
Minister of Human Services, Mr Dean Brown, estimated on Friday that 
"the annual cost for the whole of Australia would be about $30 
million compared to a total annual spend on food of $40billion".


B) Australian food groups, consumers welcome GM code

SYDNEY - Australian food and consumer group have generally welcomed a 
compromise decision by the Australian New Zealand Food Standards 
Council (ANZSFC) to tighten rules on the labelling of foods 
containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The ANZSFC, which 
brings together the Australian and New Zealand governments and eight 
governments from the Australian States and Territories, earlier on 
Friday rejected a plea from food manufacturers to introduce a one 
percent GMO threshhold in food before requiring labels.

Instead, the ANZSF issued four exemptions: highly refined food where 
the refining process removed DNA and proteins; processing aids and 
food additives where novel DNA and protein was not present in the 
final food; flavours in a concentration of 0.1 percent or less and 
food prepared at the point of sale. The new standard also allowed for 
up to one percent of unintended presence of GMO material. Previously, 
the Australian and New Zealand rule was that foods must be labelled 
where its is rendered substantially different from their conventional 
counterparts by the inclusion of GMO material.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) said in a statement 
that the proposal extended Australia and New Zealand's existing 
mandatory labelling requirements for GM foods beyond the strictest 
regime in the world, in the European Union. "We welcome the general 
direction of the Health Ministers' decision, qualified only to the 
extent of the final detail of how it is to apply in the legislation," 
AFGC's executive director Mitchell Hooke said.

The Ministers appeared to have adopted the principles of Prime 
Minister John Howard's position, that GM content need be labelled 
beyond a threshhold of one percent, as well as the operatives of the 
European Union legislation, he said. This came about through the 
decision to accept a one percent threshhold for accidental mixing of 
GM material with non GM foods, he said.

It also came with the exemption from labelling requirements of 
additives and highly refined foods such as oils, starches and sugars 
in foods where they were purified in processing and did not contain 
modified material. "This is a decision the industry has been looking 
for and consumers have been expecting. It should go a long way to 
meeting the fundamental objective of providing consumers with 
meaningful information upon which they can exercise their right to 
choice," Hooke said. It should also not put Australia at risk with 
the World Trade Organisation by creating non-tariff barriers to trade 
on imported products, he said.

The Australian Consumers Association decsribed the decision as a 
partial win for consumers, welcoming the ministers' decision not to 
accept the Prime Ministers' suggestion that ingredients at or below a 
one percent threshhold be labelled. "We're pleased that if it's known 
that an ingredient contains modified DNA food must be labelled. But 
we're disappointed that restaurant and takeaway foods are exempt," it 
said. It was also disappointing that refined foods, where the novel 
DNA or protein in the final food had been removed, did not have to be 
labelled, it said.

Anti-GM group GeneEthics Network also described the decision as a 
partial win for Australian food buyers. Avcare, the National 
Association for Crop Production and Animal Health, said it accepted 
the decision as a step in the right direction for both regulation and 
consumer choice issues.


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