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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2524 ..


Ministerial Statement and Paper

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care): Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave of the Assembly to make a ministerial statement on the outcomes from the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council meeting.

Leave granted.

MR MOORE: I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

It was a pleasure to hear of the issues that Mrs Carnell raised in her ministerial statement. They relate to a major issue about food labelling as well that has been dealt with by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council.

Mr Deputy Speaker, ensuring the health and safety of the food we eat is an essential component of any public health system. The Australian community expects the highest standards for the food that we consume. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council consists of Health Ministers from all states and territories, New Zealand, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. The major function of the council is to approve food standards for Australia and New Zealand. A council meeting was held on 3 August 1999 in Canberra.

The council at this meeting deliberated over some very important and contentious food standards. These included the labelling of genetically modified food, food irradiation, maximum permitted concentration of cadmium in peanuts, pasteurisation of orange juice, development of uniform food Acts, food safety standards, and the maximum permitted residue levels in foods. The discussion and deliberation on the labelling of genetically modified foods preoccupied most of the meeting and gained the greatest media attention. I will say as an aside that the meeting went on for some seven hours when the Food Ministers Council has traditionally gone on for not much more than three-quarters of an hour to 1 hour.

Food produced using gene technology is a sign of the modern times, Mr Deputy Speaker. Scientists are able to modify or transfer the genes from one organism to another to produce the desired characteristics. Gene technology provides the food industry with opportunities to provide us with better quality food at supermarkets shelves and to improve crop yields. As with any new technology, however, there are ethical, moral, health and safety issues which must be addressed. It is imperative that these issues are addressed with great care, consultation and caution to ensure that any decision that is made protects the health of present and future generations.

Mr Deputy Speaker, the ACT has attempted to ensure that health issues in relation to genetically modified food are fully addressed. It was the ACT which first advocated for comprehensive labelling of all genetically modified foods at the first food council

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