Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ZenTiger Eat Your Greens

Sue Kedgley of the Greens blogs: "Tomorrow I will present my 37 thousand signature petition calling for mandatory country of origin labelling of all fresh and single component food to the Health Select Committee."

My first thought was of the 37 thousand signature petition she has backing her bill. That's 37,000 people standing up for something they believe in and asking the government to consider their request. A very big number, impressive indeed.

So I asked Sue what she thought a petition like that means? Did getting that many signatures influence her thinking in any way? Do you think other politicians should listen when the will of the people is so strong?

Anyway, irony aside, here's some of the reasons the Greens give to label food with a country of origin:

In 2006, we imported 10,604 tonnes of lamb and beef - most of it was not labelled as to its country of origin. This means that consumers cannot be certain when they buy meat at their local butcher or supermarket whether it is New Zealand raised or imported. We imported 2.4 times as much meat from Australia as we exported to them.

And what do the Greens want to do with beef and lamb farming in this country? Make it even more expensive with new eco-taxes, cut production to reduce environmental damage and enact more policies that will cripple farming. So what do they expect here?

Shrimps from China have been found to contain carcinogenic antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, and gentian violet, as well as the banned insecticide DDT, and fluoroquinolone, an antibiotic critical to human health, but threatened by antibiotic resistance. As a result of these concerns, the United States has halted five types of farmed fish from China at the border. 25% of our imported shrimps and prawns come from China - 937 tonnes in 2006 - and none of it was tested for residues.

So putting a label "imported from China" is supposed to help? How about blocking imports of goods tested as containing banned pesticide residue? How about having bills to ensure the food we eat - wherever it comes from, is safe.

Australian tomatoes are dipped in the toxic insecticide dimethoate but New Zealand tomatoes aren't. Dimethoate cannot be removed by washing and has been found to disrupt reproductive function, cause chromosomal aberrations, damage the immune system, disrupt the endocrine system and affect the nervous system.

Ditto. "Made in Australia" doesn't convey the same impact as "Poisonous". So make up your minds, do we allow dangerous foods and mercury containing CFL light bulbs and crap quality, or don't we?

A survey in China found candied fruit with 63 times the permitted amount of sweetener as well as excessive additives and preservatives in nearly 40% of the children's snacks. Last year New Zealand imported 1 tonne of glazed fruit from China and 6,152 tonnes of other preserved fruit, which may or may not be sweetened.

Ditto.

In April this year the United States rejected 137 shipments of food from China because it was "filthy", contained the food poisoning bacteria salmonella, or banned chemicals - but our government does not carry out regular random testing of imported food from China, let alone turn ships away at the border.

And ditto.

So basically, the Greens are saying imported food can be very unsafe. Especially from China. The country Labour signed a free trade agreement with. Not only is it unsafe, but we don't test for safety. Bad stuff just arrives in our shops ready to buy.

On top of that, local beef and lamb production is already so expensive we can import it more cheaply from Australia. I wonder what Green Policy, if enacted, would do to the prices of local meat? Possibly make cheese seem cheap.

So rather than tackle the food safety issue and work out why local production of meat, vegetables and fruit is more expensive in New Zealand, even with transport costs (which are logistically more expensive for food) Sue K. wants to bung a origin label on it. The rationale is that if we know where our food comes from, we will chose not to buy it. That of course relies on consumers making bigoted and biased judgments such as "all food that comes from China is bad" or "Australians sell us meat too cheaply therefore they underpay their workers so I'll buy this NZ sausage instead"

Why not put our energies into making all food safe instead of this rather obtuse approach to supposedly helping consumers make informed choices?

What was it that Winston said about his voters? Only 37,000 need to be dumb enough to ensure he is voted in. I didn't realise they were all Greens.

Related Link: Mandatory Country of Origin Food Labeling
Related Link: Foreign Food Bad for You - The Fresh Facts

PS: I'm in favour of figuring out ways to make sure food meets a minimum quality level. If we are going to pour tax payer dollars and legislation effort into this, lets do it properly (which is, no doubt, also a very big debate).

Update: I see that the NZFSA also oppose the Green's proposal for much the same reasons I outline (and I go into a little more detail perhaps on the Frog Blog thread) and they throw in the complications of our WTO and general overseas trading obligations. Although, I'm beginning to think that one reason for opposing it is that it doesn't go far enough (now isn't that scary!)


2 comment(s):

Andy said...

Oh my, 37,000 signatures, that is a huge number of people! Surely the Government will listen to them!

Ahem.

ZenTiger said...

I thought you'd appreciate that comment :-)

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