Community Warning: Govt’s Food Bill Poised To End Food Markets

Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 | 6 Comments

As the National government edges with oleaginous ignominy towards the US, begging bowl in one hand and  free trade agreement in the other, communities all over New Zealand need to be aware of what this potentially means for some of the basic local institutions we take for granted.

What is the Food Bill?

– A Government Bill introduced to Parliament in May 2010, which has since passed its first reading and been through a Select Committee review. It may be enacted in the near future.

What are the problems with the Food Bill?

– It turns a human right (to grow food and share it) into a government-authorised privilege that can be summarily revoked.

– It makes it illegal to distribute “food” without authorisation, and it defines “food” in such a way that it includes nutrients, seeds, natural medicines, essential minerals and drinks (including water).

– By controlling seeds, the bill takes the power to grow food away from the public and puts it in the hands of seed companies. That power may be abused.

Kate Wilkinson, Food Safety minister, whose name appears on top of the bill, says she had says she had Simply No Idea That Her Bill Covered Seeds. Nor, the Greens say, did they – even though they voted for the bill’s first reading and had representatives on the Select Committee that further approved it. They then had the temerity to complain that lobby groups should have pointed this out to them earlier! What?!

The Food Bill is being pushed by the US Food and Drug Administration via its involvement in Codex Alimentarius (the “Food Book”), which is a decades-in-the-making initiative being foisted upon all World Trade Organisation member countries.

The ultimate US export; a gun-shaped pizza

The ultimate US export; a gun-shaped pizza

New Zealand food companies will have to adhere to Codex Alimentarius food regulations handed down by the US FDA via the WTO and NZ Govt, or they will have their operating licences revoked. So the food they grow will be Codex compliant – which means irradiated, GM, hormone-injected, pesticide (poison) laden, life-force devoid food that’s lacking in nutritionally important vitamins and minerals.

This issue exemplifies the biggest danger in signing free trade agreements, particularly if your government is ideologically inclined to do so, which  exempts them from having to read the fine print – as in Kate Wilkinson’s case. If you are not careful, you find yourself signed up to a treaty that runs roughshod over every piece of consumer protection legislation enacted.

The Speculator urges its readers to get informed, and take action.

6 comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Greetings! I am writing from overseas. Came to visit your beautiful country in December of last year. Am wondering what happened with this issue in the last 1/2 year. I love to grow a garden. Leary of genetically altered seeds. Hope gardening and farmers markets are still available over there and not at risk. Looking forward to a response.
    Best Wishes to All.

  2. Boadicca says:

    I think Speccie is right on this one. Government legislation democratically emerging from public concern is one thing: legislation led by corporate interests is quite another. This looks and smells like the latter to me. It clearly favours industrial (chemically and genetically assisted) methods of farming and private profit over public interests (for example socially important community food exchanges etc). Yes, it’s a good idea to have transparent food origins, and safety standards, but we should also bear in mind that big business monopolies benefit from regulatory burdens so great that local/community endeavours are discouraged or even totally disabled. ‘Free trade’ is an oxymoron.
    Boadicca

  3. Maggie says:

    Having checked the Bill with amendments I think it is still looking murky for the likes of Farmers Markets and their stallholders. At the very least it means uncertainty as to whether they will get an exemption or meet the requirements of a Plan. So they could start to disappear which would be a major retrograde step in terms of sustainable development and community development. There seems to be a latent adverse response to this Bill which suggests that despite the amendments it should be revisited and further amendments and clarification sought. Or maybe a rewrite with no hidden agendas would be best.

  4. Sandra says:

    This article is emotionally charged.

    Before readers get too carried away with “taking action” they may like to know that the Food Bill is a tidying up of the current Food Act 1981 and is concerned with ensuring those who prepare food for sale to others, do so under a MAF approved food control plan, to ensure what they sell is safe to consume. Instead of being monitered by local councils as the Food Act is, a food control plan will have to be registered with MAF.

    The Food Bill does not apply to food which is grown for one’s own consumption or to share with others – people will still be able to do this without being subject to any form of legislation.

    As far as cottage industries and small business are concerned, they may be able to apply for exemption of a food control plan. You can read more at http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz by clicking on the quicklink Proposed Food Bill.

    In terms of food composition itself, this is covered by a separate authority, FSANZ (Food Standards Australia and New Zealand). http://www.foodstandards.govt.nz GM foods for example, would be assessed through this organisation and approved by the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council.

    Before signing up to any petition, I urge you to ensure you understand what you are signing.

    Sandra: There is normally a very good reason when central govt expands its span of control, which you quite rightly point out it is doing (in your first paragraph). This reason normally has something to do with it being obligated to obtain control. There are 3 forces that can oblige central govt to do this; 1: Public pressure; 2: Big business; 3: Big countries.

    Food quality – as far as I’m aware – is not currently high on the public’s priorities. Which leaves options 2 and 3. The only issue that seems relevant to these forces is the mooted free trade agreement. – Ed

  5. Sniff says:

    Instead of doing anything meaningful to halt or even reverse human-made negative impacts on the climate and environment, the New Zealand government (in league with others world wide) is legislating to ensure that when the natural consequences of climate change occur (as they are already starting to) such as famine, water shortage, displacement of populations, the governments will be able to have complete control over all food resources and make money from selling scarce supplies of food and water. There’s money to be made out of every situation!

  6. lulu says:

    Hang on Speculator! Just checked the Food Bill, which I advise others to do before taking up arms. It’s about WHERE FOOD COMES FROM ie FOOD ORIGIN . I want to know about food origin and I want it to be safe to eat. So far, that’s what I understand the Bill is intended to do.Also, some of the issues you raise such as selling at markets have been addressed in the amendments to the Food Bill- So, why the huff and puff Speculator?

    Lulu – The huff and puff here does not relate solely to the minutiae of the Act, but to the implications that this amended legislation will have for NZ’s consumer protection laws if and when we establish a free trade agreement with the US. – Ed

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