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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2942 ..

MS HORODNY (continuing):

Genetically altered organisms are already being used in the food production process in Australia, but this information is not being imparted to consumers ... major companies overseas are already labelling genetically engineered food products. We consider the provision of information on these products to be a basic consumer right.

They urge us to support this proposed amendment.

Recent work on the rabbit calicivirus has shown that viruses that are released on rabbits may also spread to humans. While the consequences of humans getting such a virus may not be as severe as they are for the rabbit population, it is still a concern. This whole issue is one that needs much more debate and much more discussion. The reason that I bring this up as an example is that scientific testing may not necessarily have the consequences that are sometimes predicted. Genetic engineering raises many potential dangers: Genetically altered tomatoes or livestock raises very different health issues. Consumers have a right to be able to make educated decisions about the food that they eat. I commend Mr Connolly's Bill and him for taking this initiative.

MR MOORE (10.50): The tenor of the debate so far has been that we are debating irradiated food. We are not debating irradiated food or genetically manipulated food. We are debating consumers' right to know. We are not debating whether or not this should not go ahead; rather, that the consumer should be able to make their own decision. That decision should be made on an informed basis. The way that that informed basis is achieved, in Mr Connolly's legislation, is through labelling.

It might be time to remind members of what is in the proposed legislation. Proposed new section 24A states:

(1) A person shall not sell food that -

(a) has been subjected to a process of treatment involving irradiation; or

(b) is derived from a plant or an animal which was subjected to a process of treatment involving genetic engineering;

unless ...

I should say congratulations to Mr Connolly. This piece of legislation is quite easy to understand, unlike some that we have seen in the house over the last few days. Here is the crunch:

unless a notice containing a statement, in legible characters, to the effect that the food has been so subjected or is derived from such a plant or animal, as the case requires, is displayed conspicuously at or near the place of sale.

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