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Monday, 18 November 2002
Page: 6583

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (2:24 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Is the minister aware of the so-called pharma-foods that have been in the news lately—edible crops that are modified to carry pharmaceuticals, which can include vaccines or contraceptives? Can the minister advise if there are any pharma-foods that are being developed or tested in Australia? Does the Commonwealth government have a policy in relation to either the testing or the use of pharma-foods in this country?

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —With regard to foods and food standards, the states, the Commonwealth and New Zealand are involved. I do not know the exact answer to the exact question that you asked. Patricia Worth, my parliamentary secretary, deals with food standards and food standards issues. In order to give you a proper, appropriate and detailed answer I will get back to you. I know some of the details about the advertising of foods and foods that have additives but I am not entirely sure about pharma-foods. I know that it was a news item yesterday but I will ask Trish Worth and the department to provide you with a detailed answer and I will table it in the Senate as soon as possible.

Senator STOTT DESPOJA —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for taking that on notice and I ask: when she gets that further information could she inform the Senate as to whether or not the government will rule out providing open-field trials of any pharma-food that is proposed for use in Australia in order to ensure that there is no contamination of food crops or wild plants?

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —On the question of ruling in or ruling out, I will need to double-check the role of the states and the issue of states' responsibilities in terms of whether they grow those sorts of foods, and I will have that included in the answer. I am not going to rule in or rule out anything. I will give you the details about the Commonwealth's responsibility, the states' responsibility and the New Zealand-state-Australian agreements regarding food and food standards.