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The problem is that the consumer will be confronted with two apples or two tomatoes; one of which may have been on the shelf for three weeks, and one not. When any of us do our grocery shopping and are confronted with the fruit barrow, we all assume that we can make a pretty good guess as to whether the apple we are thinking about buying is good or not. We can all tell fruit that looks a bit tired, and we will decide not to purchase that fruit. With irradiated products, a consumer will be far less able to make that choice.

There are also, of course, significant economic issues. The irradiated food product, given its extended shelf life, should be significantly cheaper to the consumer than the product that is subject to the natural process of decay in food. Again, that may be so; and, again, there may be benefit. But the consumer must know. The consumer must be confronted with the ability to make a rational and informed choice between the irradiated apple, which may have been on the shelf for three weeks and which should be cheaper, and the non-irradiated apple. Many would argue, and do argue, that food irradiation is, of its very nature, inherently dangerous to the long-term food cycle. I do not claim to be a scientist. All I can say from my reading is that there is debate on both sides.

To date, the national body which gives approvals for food in Australia, the National Food Authority, has been persuaded on balance not to allow irradiated food onto the general Australian market. Those people who argue that irradiation is, of its nature, dangerous have to date had the upper hand, although that may well change. If it does change, that will occur as a result of an intergovernmental process; and that is fair enough. But we, as an Assembly, are entitled to say that if it does change the consumer must be warned; there must be a labelling process to warn the consumer that food is irradiated. Those who argue the benefit of the irradiated food really have little basis for objection to that labelling process. If this technology is so wonderful, if this is a great boon to humanity out of the nuclear fuel cycle, what is the problem? If it is such a good idea, consumers will flock to purchase it. Many sceptics and many in the consumer movement are of the view that consumers, when they see the irradiated food sign, will rapidly move to the next fruit barrow and choose to purchase the fresh apple or the fresh tomato.

Genetic engineering raises a whole set of other difficulties. This is an issue that is far more imminent for Australian consumers. The process of genetic engineering has emerged from some of the quite extraordinary steps forward that geneticists and medical researchers have made in recent years. Our Clinical School, the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Woden Valley Hospital and the University of Canberra have people who are as good as any in other research institutions throughout the world in aspects of genetic engineering. There are some enormous benefits that this science is able to bring to humanity. One commercial spin-off is genetically altering food products. Again, there is a very strong argument that we just do not know enough about this yet to ensure its safety. What impact will eating a strawberry that has been treated with a growth hormone from another product - let us say, a growth hormone from a tomato - have on a person who may have an allergy to tomatoes? Arguments differ. Again, I am not a scientist; and I do not claim to be able to give a definitive scientific answer. Again, the consumer ought to know.

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