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Towards An Organic Nation - The [NZ] Green Party Policy On Safe Food



Towards An Organic Nation - The Green Party Policy
Monday, 14 December 1998, 11:54 am
Press Release: Green Party

 Towards An Organic Nation - The Green Party Policy On Safe Food

Released December 14, 1998 in Wellington by Green Party Co-LeaderJeanette
Fitzsimons and Green Party Wellington City CouncillorSue Kedgley

As we enter the new millennium the question of who controls the food we eat
and the water we drink will be at the top of the political agenda. Humanity
has the power now to ensure every person has enough to eat and to protect
its freshness and nutritional value. But instead technology is being used
to redesign our food in ways that are convenient and profitable to
multinational agribusiness but dangerous for consumers, who are mostly
denied the right to know.

The Green Party's health policy starts with safe food. The waiting lists
show how far our health needs have outstripped our ability to pay for them.
It is time to ask why so many people are getting so sick, and what can be
done to prevent it. Part of the answer is poverty amid wealth and the
inadequate housing and hygiene which results. But there is growing evidence
of the link between diet and health, and increasing numbers of people who
are allergic to food, sensitive to chemicals, have damaged immune  systems
or suffer from chronic, diet-related diseases.

At the same time we are neglecting a huge economic opportunity.  NZ is
already recognised as clean, green and nuclear free. We trade on the
perception that our food is grown in a safe environment.

It is not. Levels of pesticide used here are higher than in many countries.
A typical child's diet contains more pesticide than in the US. Additives
are permitted here which are banned in some other countries. In the last
year or so genetically engineered foods have reached our shelves without
our knowledge and our own government-funded scientists have been
experimenting with genetically engineered crops for some time.

Yet there is no world demand for GE crops or foods with high pesticide
residues. It does not fetch higher prices and consumers only buy it if they
don't know what it is.

On the contrary, there is a huge unsatisfied demand for certified organic
production and it pays a substantial premium. NZ's organic exports stand at
$25 million a year and are expected to rise to $65m within two years.
Market barriers that exist for
 conventional produce melt away for certified organic food.

Right now NZ is at a cross roads. We could keep on the path of industrial
food production, selling bulk commodities at low prices. Or we could
position ourselves as an organic nation with a determined strategy to
support our growers to produce and market the highest quality clean green
food, making our reputation a reality before we lose it.

That opportunity is not compatible with embracing genetic engineering for
crops grown in NZ. The production of pesticide-resistant insect pests,
creation of new plant and animal viruses and the gradual pollution of the
gene pool with unnatural genetic material will eventually make it
impossible for any NZ production to comply with internationally recognised
organic standards.

In other words, we have to choose, and we have to choose soon.

Food policy is also about democracy. Citizens have a fundamental right to
know what is in their food, and to participate in decisions about what will
be allowed. We cannot allow the imposed rules of a world trade club most
New Zealanders did not choose to join to override our rights to information
or to health.

We recognise that the Green Party will have to work with whatever other
parties we are sharing government with. The policies below are those we
will advocate for in any post-election agreement. We recognise we will be a
small player in the next parliament, but our support for any other party
will be conditional on some progress towards these policies.

Our Target: an organic nation by 2020

Our policies are aimed at having half of New Zealandís production certified
organic by 2020, and the remainder in the process of conversion. As a first
step towards this target., we aim to have 10% certified organic by 2005.

Policies to promote organic growing

- To help farmers over the transitional period when yields can drop
temporarily, a mortgage guarantee or an interest free loan for up three
years for growers converting to organics, with the interest payable at the
end of the conversion period if certification is not achieved.
- Government endorsement of Bio-Gro and Demeter organic standards for
domestic and export purposes
- Establishment of an organics advisory service for growers with some
government funding
- Redirect funding in the Public Good Science Fund into research that
supports organics
- Organic growing to be incorporated in all courses and qualifications in
agriculture and horticulture Opportunities to experience organic growing to
be available in all schools.

Pesticide Reduction Programme

- Set targets for the progressive reduction in total pesticide use and
monitor and report results
- In consultation with consumers, growers and manufacturers,develop an
immediate timetable for phasing out the most toxic and persistent
pesticides, such as the 33 pesticides that have been identified by the US
EPA as being possible and probable carcinogens
- Set a levy on all toxic and hazardous substances, the levy to be
calculated in proportion to their toxicity and persistence in the
environment. This levy to fund organics research and the cleaningup of
contaminated sites.
- All Maximum Residue Limits for pesticides to be reviewed, and set on the
basis of children's tolerances, not adult tolerances (as at present)
- Annual surveys of domestic produce to be undertaken to test for pesticide
residues and other contamination
- Imported food to re routinely tested to ensure it does not contain
illegal pesticides residues (no such testing is done at present)

New Zealand a GMF-Free Nation

- By 2000, New Zealand to declare itself (and market itself internationally
as) a nation free of genetically modified foods. GM food is defined here as
food produced by inserting genetic material from one organism into an
organism from another, unrelated species with which it could not breed
naturally.
- No field testing or production of any genetically engineered food in NZ.
- The Greens would prefer to see no imports of GM food, but as a minimum
there must be mandatory labelling of any imported GM food or food
ingredients.
- Gene technology in containment to be used for medical purposes will
continue to be subject to application to ERMA and demonstration of safety.
- Gene technology to transfer genetic material between organisms of the
same species (as compared to foreign, unrelated organisms) will continue to
be subject to ERMA application and demonstration of safety.

Food Irradiation

We are expecting a government proposal any day to overturn the current
moratorium on food irradiation and the sale of irradiated food. The Green
Party strongly opposes this. We believe New Zealand should remain an
Irradiation-Free Nation.

- No irradiation of food to be permitted in New Zealand
- No imports of irradiated food to be permitted into New Zealand
- More work is urgently needed on alternative treatments to irradiation to
extend the life of fresh produce

Antibiotics

To slow down the spread of antibiotic-resistance in New Zealand:

- Prohibit the use of antibiotics to make animals grow quickly oras routine
sprays on crops
-  Antibiotics to be administered to animals only to treat disease

BSE (Mad Cow Disease)

To ensure New Zealand remains BSE-free:

- Allow imports of cattle semen and embryos from certified organic herds only
- In line with WHO recommendations, prohibit feeding the ground-up remains
of sheep and cows to any animal that is used for human consumption.

Growth Hormones

Discontinue the use of growth hormones to make animals grow more quickly or
produce more milk.

Food Additives

The precautionary approach will apply to any additives that have questions
surrounding their safety.

- Additives that have been found to induce cancer in animal tests not to be
registered in New Zealand
- The acceptable daily intake of all additives will be revised so that it
is based on children's tolerances, not adult tolerances
- Products that contain sulphites, monosodium glutamate, aspartame,
cylmamates, caffeine, will say so on the label, regardless of the amount

Labelling

The consumer's right to know requires labelling that is easier to
understand, and more informative, with all ingredients and additives
listed.

Food Standards

Our food standards are increasingly set by authorities which represent the
food industry and are keen to promote world trade.  To ensure safety is
paramount:

- Food standards to be set by independent authorities which have as their
primary mandate to ensure a healthy and safe food supply.
- The agency should not have a potentially conflicting mandate of promoting
international trade.
- Consumers and health professionals should be represented on all bodies
that set food standards or make decisions which affect the quality of the
food we eat.

End