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Australian Food Labelling Review: Respond by May 14

Posted in Seeking by Kate Archdeacon on March 26th, 2010

Source: Climate Action Calendar

Image: allaboutgeorge via flickr CC

Australian food labelling is currently under review. The initial round of submissions closed in November last year. Although the review was only open for one month and received minimal publicity 6000 people responded to it. The Review panel has released an Issues Consultations Paper along with 39 questions for the next round.

Unfortunately the paper brushes off concerns about GM, irradiation and nanotechnology in food and is misleading:

  • Section 3.1 of the paper states that GM food must have a label. In fact loopholes in the current food standard means that most GM food escapes labelling.It is estimated that up to 70% of processed food contains GM ingredients. How many GM food labels have you seen?
  • Section 3.11 implies that GM, nano-technology and irradiation have no public safety concerns
  • Section 3.16 implies that labelling GM, nano-technology and irradiation will cause these technologies to be “inhibited”. This truly bizarre statement prompted MADGE (Mothers Are Demystifying GE) to issue a media release saying “If, as this review suggests, GM, nanotech and irradiation only have a future if they are hidden, consumers need to be extremely concerned.”
  • Section 2.5 lists the objectives of FSANZ, our food standards agency responsible for food labelling, as:
    • (a) the protection of public health and safety;
    • (b) the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices; and
    • (c) the prevention of misleading or deceptive conduct.

It appears to be failing on all three accounts in reference to GM food, irradiation and nanotechnologies.

There are concerns that if GM food labelling does emerge it will in fact be “non-GM” labelling. This means that ordinary food would need labelling (GM free – 0% GM or non-GM – some GM contamination allowable if accidental) while GM ingredients would be seen to be the norm and so escape labelling. The costs of testing, labelling and also the liability for being sued if food labelled either “GM free” or “non-GM” is contaminated, would lie with any farmers, food manufacturers or retailers trying to produce GM free food.

Please consider putting in a submission to the labelling review. Public hearings are being held throughout Australia from March to May. Sign up to attend one.

MADGE will be studying the review and putting out suggestions. If you would like to help or have any comments on what you want to see on food labels please email

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