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Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling—Genetically Modified Material) Bill 2010

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2010

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

FOOD STANDARDS AMENDMENT

(TRUTH IN LABELLING—GENETICALLY MODIFIED MATERIAL) BILL 2010

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator N Xenophon and Senator R Siewert)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOD STANDARDS AMENDMENT

(TRUTH IN LABELLING—GENETICALLY MODIFIED MATERIAL) BILL 2010

 

 

 

1.     Background

The purpose of this Act is to provide for the accurate labelling of genetically modified material in food.

 

In September 2010, independent tests revealed that infant baby formula, S-26 Soy, contained traces of genetically modified (GM) material and that presence of GM had been found in separate trials of the product in varying countries in previous years.

 

However because the amount of GM found in the product was less than 1 percent, under the current food labelling standard, manufacturers, producers and distributors are not required to label their products as containing GM.

 

In fact, if the presence is less than 1 percent and the manufacturer, producer or distributor claims it was 'unintentional', they are not in breach of any labelling requirement.

 

This is despite growing community consensus that consumers have a right to know what they are eating, and many want to know if they are consuming products which have a presence of genetically modified materials.

 

In fact, a 2009 Newspoll survey found that 90 percent of Australian consumers want all food derived from GM crops to be labelled. Australians want to know what's in their food, and what they're feeding their families.

 

Requiring the truthful and accurate labelling of products containing genetically modified material, no matter what amount or how the GM material came to be present in the product, will enable consumers to make an informed choice.

 

This Act requires Food Standards Australia New Zealand (the Authority) to introduce a standard for the labelling of genetically modified material, irrespective of the amount or how it came to be present.

 

It also requires the Authority to establish due diligence guidelines for products which claim to be GM-Free, whether by use of the phrase or absence of labelling, whereby manufacturers, producers and distributors must be able to prove their products are indeed free of genetically modified material.

 

Truth in labelling is vital to enable Australian consumers to have an informed choice about the food they eat and the products they consume.

 

Australians have a right to know, and this Act will ensure that manufacturers, producers and distributors provide them with clear labelling information about genetically modified materials.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Short Title

This clause is a formal provision and specifies the short title of Bill, once enacted, may be cited as the Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling - Genetically Modified Material) Act 2010 .

 

 

  1. Commencement

This clause provides for the commencement of sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Act, the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, and for Schedule 1 to commence 28 days after the day on which the Act receives Royal Assent.

 

The Authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will have 6 months from the day after which the Act receives Royal Assent to develop and approve a GM food labelling standard and due diligence guidelines.

 

 

  1. Schedule

This clause states that each Act specified within a Schedule under this Bill would be amended or repealed as set out by the provisions of this Bill, and any other item in a Schedule to this Bill has effect according to its terms.

 

 

  1. Purpose of Act

The purpose of this Act is to require producers, manufacturers and distributors of food to label all products that contain genetically modified material.

 

 

  1. Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991

 

Section 16C Matters for which amendment of standard must be developed and approved - genetically modified material

 

This section inserts a requirement for the Authority to develop a standard regarding GM food labelling.

 

Subsection 1 requires that the authority develop and approve a GM labelling standard that prescribes that producers, manufacturers and distributors of foods which contain genetically modified food to label products accordingly.

 

This standard will require labelling irrespective of the amount of genetically modified material in the food (ie. whether it is less than 1 percent or greater than 1 percent), the manner in which the genetically modified material made its way into the food (ie. whether it was through an ingredient source or through contamination) and the fact that the food was not intended to contain genetically modified material (ie. accidental as opposed to known).

 

Subsection 2 states that the standard will not be subject to section 18 of the Act with regards to developing food regulatory measures under which the Authority must have regard to (a)  the need for standards to be based on risk analysis using the best available scientific evidence; (b)  the promotion of consistency between domestic and international food standards ; (c)  the desirability of an efficient and internationally competitive food industry; (d)  the promotion of fair trading in food ; (e)  any written policy guidelines formulated by the Council for the purposes of this paragraph and notified to the Authority .

 

This is to ensure that labelling of products with any traces of genetically modified material is required in the interest of the consumer and their right to know.

 

Similarly, the GM labelling standard established within 6 months of the commencement of this section will not be subject to Part 3 of the Act, which relates to applications for the development or variation of food regulatory measures and proposals for the development or variation of food regulatory measures, in particular Division 3 of the Act with regards to the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council being able to request a review of the draft standards.

 

Under Part 3, Division 3 of the Act, the Council is able to review a draft standard and amend or reject it.

 

Under this Clause, the GM food labelling standard would not be subject to this section, thereby ensuring that products containing genetically modified material are labelled in the interest of the public and their right to know what foods they are consuming and their origins.

 

Subsection 3 of this Act clarifies that subsection 2 does not prevent the Authority from revoking and replacing or developing a variation of a new GM food labelling standard, as long as it complies with the intent of subsection 1.

 

Subsection 4 relates to any amended or revised GM labelling standard and states that Part 3 (Food regulatory measures) of the Act, apart from Division 3 will apply to any such variation or revised GM labelling standard.

 

This means that any amended or revised GM labelling standard must comply with the provision under the Act with regards to applications for the development or variation of food regulatory measures and proposals for the development or variation of food regulatory measures, again except for Division 3 with regards to the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council being able to request a review of the draft standards.

 

Subsection 5 states that a GM labelling standard must be in force at all times from 6 months after the commencement of the Act, even if the Authority is amending or replacing the GM food labelling standard.

 

 

Section 16D Matters for which guidelines must be developed - exercise of due diligence - genetic modification

 

Subsection 1 of this section requires that the Authority must, within 6 months after the commencement of this section, develop due diligence guidelines whereby producers, manufacturers and distributors of food who are 'GM-Free', so identified either by the absence of labelling of genetically modified material or by use of the claim in it's labelling.

 

These guidelines, as detailed in, but not limited by, subsection 2, must include (a) verification of the chain of custody in relation to ingredients used in products claiming to be GM-Free; (b) procurement or supply contract requirements for ingredients in products claiming to be GM-Free; and (c) verification of testing and the results of testing of foods claiming to be GM-Free, that there are indeed no traces of genetically modified material as claimed.

 

Subsection 3 states that if a person is found to have breached the GM labelling standard provisions, it is a defence if the person can prove they complied with or took reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the due diligence guidelines.

 

Under subsection 4, 'GM-Free food' and 'high-risk country' is defined. 'High-risk country', which is referred to in the due diligence guidelines (subsection 2), is any country which is likely to be a source of food or ingredients contaminated by genetically modified material.

 

These countries will be prescribed by regulations.

 

 

Section 16E Matters for which guidelines must be developed - compliance and testing - GM food labelling standard

 

This section requires that the Authority must, within 6 months after the commencement of this section, develop guidelines to assist other agencies with developing guidelines for compliance testing and enforcement of the Code with regards to a GM labelling standard.