New Zealand Moves Ahead With GMF Identification
The process of identifying genetically modified foods in New
Zealand has progressed substantially with the assessment
the food industry to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, Dr
Durham, Director of Public Health, said today.
"From these applications we should be able to work out which
genetically modified ingredients in foods eaten in New Zealand
are covered by the applications, and by process of elimination,
which ingredients - if any - are not."
"Next week we will share the list of applications with the New
Zealand importers and manufacturers. We will also ask them to
advise us of any genetically modified foods that they manufacture
or import, apart from the ingredients covered by the applications
The ANZFA Standard A18, prohibits the sale of GMFs from 13 May
1999 unless they were the subject of an application to ANZFA
by 30 April 1999. Twenty applications were made and ANZFA is
now analysing them.
If the applications meet the agreed criteria*, the foods they
cover can remain on shelves in Australia and New Zealand until
ANZFA completes the safety assessment and makes its recommendations
to the Australia New Zealand Food Safety Council (ANZFSC). This
process will be completed by 30 June 2000.
Under the new standard genetically modified ingredients which
are not included in the applications may not be sold in New Zealand
or Australia from 13 May 1999.
"But it is unrealistic for anyone to expect that regulators will
be taking immediate action to take food off the shelves," says
"This is an important matter which must be handled properly,
and any action must be demonstrably within the law. Given the
technical nature of the criteria, and the difficulty of obtaining
reliable evidence, it will take some time for industry and regulators to
clearly establish which foods are legally on the market and which must be
"Our prime aim is public safety and we will not compromise this.
However, we have to also consider the impact our actions may
have on the food industry, the choice of foods available to New
Zealanders and our international legal obligations."
The Ministry of Health is working with other government agencies
and ANZFA to establish a practicable means of enforcing the standard.
"There are limited testing facilities in New Zealand and Australia
and these are being explored," says Dr Durham.
In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has contracted ESR to
develop GMF testing capabilities. In addition, laboratories further
afield are being approached to see whether they can provide reliable
testing service to government agencies.
The testing necessary is complex with each genetic modification
needing a separate test. These tests are not reliable for highly
refined ingredients which are often indistinguishable from their
Consultation on extensions to the labelling requirements for
GMFs will start next week.
The current standard requires foods that are substantially different
from the traditional form to be labelled. The consultation asks
whether labelling should be extended to foods which are genetically
modified but which are the same as traditional forms in taste,
nutritional value, appearance and chemical make-up. This will
also provide an opportunity for the public to comment on their
views on the higher food costs any additional labelling requirements
Australian and New Zealand food legislation does not generally
require specific pre-market approval for foods whether they are
produced using gene technology or not. Nonetheless, foods produced
using gene technology, as with all foods, are required under
the Food Act 1981 to be safe for human consumption and free from
contamination. It is the responsibility of anyone selling food,
including genetically modified foods in New Zealand, to ensure
that they meet these legal obligations.
The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) standard (A18)
for the labelling and sale of genetically modified foods has
been adopted in both New Zealand and Australia. The standard
was gazetted last August and will come into force on 13 May 1999.
- provides a general prohibition on the sale of GMFs and requires
each genetically modified food to be assessed for safety before
it can be sold.
- requires labelling - if the genetically modified food is judged
to be substantially different to its conventional counterpart,
it will require labelling.
- sets out the process for safety assessments of specific applications to
market all genetically modified foods. Assessments will be made by ANZFA,
and require the endorsement of the Council of Ministers to become law in
1 Feb 1997 ANZFA releases discussion document on draft GMF standard
1 April 1997 The Ministry of Health adopts a voluntary interim
policy in New Zealand, which requires industry to only use GMFs
that have been assessed and approved by aby a competent overseas
20 Aug 1998 GMF standard gazzetted in New Zealand to take effect
on 13 May 1999
17 Dec 1998 ANZFSC decide to extend labelling requirements to
substantially equivalent GMFs and request ANZFA to develop a
recommendation for future labelling requirements.
17 March 1999 ANZFA advised ANZFSC Ministers of the lack of applications
by Intellectual Property Holders to have their GMFs assessed by ANZFA.
19 March 1999 Ministry of Health consulted on change to the implementation
of the GMF standard.
19 March 1999 ANZFA provided advice to ANZFSC Ministers on the
labelling of substantially equivalent GMFs.
30 March 1999 ANZFSC teleconference agreed to change the implementation
time line to allow new applications to be accepted. Labelling discussion
referred back to ANZFA for further work.
15 April 1999 Variation to Standard (A18) gazetted to change
the implementation time line to allow new applications to be
30 April 1999 Industry had to have all applications in to ANZFA
The newsroom can be found at http://www.newsroom.co.nz
Organic Products Exporters Group Inc. (OPEG)
PO Box 8640
Ph: +64 3 348-0979
Fax: +64 3 348-1867
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