Steffan Browning talks about the recently passed Food Bill, GE, and food related issues

Interviewed by

Lisa Er

Steffan Browning talks about the recently passed Food Bill, GE, and food related issues

Steffan Browning, Green Party Member of Parliament. Spokesperson on Organics, GMOs, Fisheries, Agriculture, Bio-security, Customs, Forestry, Security and Intelligence.

Steffan has been a member of the select committee on the Food Bill and has been instrumental in promoting changes to the original document.

A new law, replacing the Food Act 1981, was passed in Parliament on May 27th 2014. The bill introduces substantial reforms to the regulatory regime for the safety and suitability of food. This bill has been ten years in the making and has been sent to the select committee twice. It has just passed its third reading in the house and is to become law.

This bill is about food that is for consumption. It sets a new risk based bureaucratic structure that growers and producers will have to face but as consumers that may be a plus for us. Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye says it will reduce compliance costs. There will be exemptions for small growers. How much bureaucracy should a small grower have to comply with however?

Laws governing the selling of seeds for growing have been changed and are no longer included in the bill. The bill is strictly about the safety of food that we are going to eat.

Steffan Browning and Labour's Damien OConnor have both put up amendments to the bill on Country of Origin labelling but the government voted these down. The Green Party has still got Country of Origin labelling in the parliamentary ballot, as that now seems the only way to get the issue addressed.In January 2012, when Steffan was supposed to be on holiday, many people flooded him with letters concerned about this bill. One concern was, where did genetic engineering fit in all of this. After all, it is a food safety issue, since genetically engineered foods are not safe.

If you doubt that statement is correct watch the movie that Steffan recommends, 'Genetic Roulette.

One concern was that genetic engineering had been removed from the draft bill. Steffan worked with the then food safety minister Kate Wilkinson, and more recently with minister Nikki Kaye and has managed to include wording says that genetically engineered foods MAY be considered a food issue. This means that GE can be included under the umbrella of this food safety regulation, which would ultimately be beneficial, one would hope. The words are in the bill but the actions of this government are not supporting it.

Minister Nikki Kaye has allowed into New Zealand a new Soyabean that has been genetically altered to make it tolerant to the herbicides glufosinate ammonium and 2,4-D (an ingredient in agent orange) as well as roundup. This will undoubtedly create a health issue in the not so distant future. While each of the herbicides are not shown by industrys own science to cause problems in the human body, there have been no tests on how all three work together. Independent science has shown some very concerning effects from herbicide resistant GE soy.

This latest soy has not been approved by the FDA in the United States yet, which is saying something! Currently in New Zealand no GE food is grown but Steffan talks about the importing of GE food into this country and how we are unknowingly eating it, as our labelling laws have not been monitored or enforced since 2003. He explains why you are probably eating GE in your dairy and meat products via the animals food, that may include GE soy, cotton seed and canola.

One of the concerns in this country is the lack of independent, not industry based, science. It appears that even our regulatory body FSANZ has some conflicts of interest amongst its advisors, so how do we ensure we actually are eating safe food?

Steffan says the whole system needs an overhaul. If FSANZ – Food Safety Australia New Zealand – cant do better than this then we need to bring control back into this country, again.

Steffan is a tireless worker for a variety of food issues and is a major protector in Parliament of the integrity of our food. He is also quick to acknowledge the work of Claire Bleakley, Jon Carapiet, Suzie Lees, and others from GE Free NZ.

This programme was sponsored by The Awareness Party.

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Lisa Er

Lisa Er

Born in the UK Lisa emigrated with her parents to New Zealand at the age of 16. Already politically active Lisa has continued to have a passionate interest in peace, politics, and the philosophy behind what we do.

A primary school teacher for 14 years, Lisa then turned her hand to business and created the well known Lisa's Hummus, which she sold a few years ago. Now Lisa is immersed in creating a better political system via